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My Neighbor’s Tree Has Grown into My Yard — What Now?

Experts are often asked, "What should I do when my neighbor's tree has grown into my yard?" Learn how to deal with this and other tree and property line related issues.

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how to find you property lines metal detector stakeFamily Handyman

Find Your Property Lines

Iron stakes mark property lines in most communities. They’re typically located at corners and places where property lines meet.

To get started, request a plot plan from city hall. You may be able to find the stakes by dragging a rake over the suspected location. But more likely, the stakes will be several inches underground. In that case, your best bet is to buy or rent a metal detector (inexpensive ones cost less than $65). When you’ve found your target, dig to make sure that it’s really a stake and not just a lost quarter.

These are our all-time favorite property line horror stories.

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Decide If It’s Really a Problem

Before you confront your neighbor about their wayward tree, consider whether it’s worth it. A few branches overhanging onto your side of the fence isn’t necessarily a big deal, depending on their size and location. Maybe the tree is large and old, which would make cutting some of its branches a shame — especially if those branches aren’t seriously impeding the function of your yard.

You might decide the tree is a problem which needs to be addressed, and that’s fine, too. Just don’t start hacking branches off before thinking it through. A grudge-wielding neighbor is a lot more of a pain than a few tree branches. Planting some tree yourself? Here are 15 trees that will grow anywhere.

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Determine If Branches Extend Past The Property Line

By law, you have the right to trim branches and limbs that extend past the property line, according to FindLaw. Let your neighbors know what you’re doing first, in the interest of being a decent neighbor and human being. Explain the situation and give them the option to come over and do the trimming themselves if they’d prefer. Learn these tree pruning techniques so you don’t create more problems for the tree.

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Know the Setback Requirements

Each municipality has its own set of rules for setback requirements, or how far something can be away from a property line. So before doing anything, make sure you fully understand setbacks and setback requirements. You need to know these 10 ordinances if you have a nuisance neighbor.

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Learn Homeowners Association Rules

HOAs often have rules that are more stringent than city code. Talk with representatives of your HOA before doing anything so you can avoid one of these homeowner association horror stories.

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Figure Out Who Owns the Tree

According to FindLaw, the tree’s owner is determined by whichever side of the property line the trunk falls. When the tree trunk is divided by the property line, then all property owners possess the tree. If such a tree is to be removed, consent from each party must be granted. It’s best to remain on friendly terms with your neighbor because there are some things they won’t tell you.

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When a Neighbor Kills Your Tree By Digging

FindLaw says, “Anyone who engages in tree removal, tree cutting, or injury to the tree without the owner’s permission is liable for compensating the tree owner.” This can happen accidentally if your neighbor digs in their yard where some roots from your tree are spreading underground, then uses herbicide.

If you’ve decided to plant a tree, don’t make these mistakes.

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When Neighbor’s Tree Looks Like it Could Fall Into Your Yard

First, it’s usually best to discuss the potential issue with your neighbor. Second, your neighbor could be held liable for damages, according to FindLaw. Third, if your neighbor doesn’t do anything about it, the tree could be considered a nuisance, and you could file a nuisance claim, FindLaw says.

The city could even come out to remove the tree, if there are ordinances that prohibit property owners from keeping dangerous conditions on their property, according to FindLaw. Don’t do these things when cutting down a tree.

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Be Aware of Tree Root Issues

If tree roots rupture something like a septic system in a neighbor’s yard, there could be claims made against the tree owner. Of course, it all depends on the laws in the city and state where the tree is located.

Make sure you know how to check if tree roots are gumming up your sewer line.

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Family Handyman

Don’t Cut Down the Tree

Depending on where you live, if you cut down your neighbor’s tree it could be considered trespassing. According to NOLO, some states have laws on the books that make intentional tree damage a crime that can result in a fine or jail time. If you need to cut a fallen tree in your yard, follow these chainsaw safety tips.

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Beware of Fallen Trees

If a tree falls into your neighbor’s yard, typically your insurance company will get involved, if it fell over due to an act of nature. But there are a number of scenarios where you, the homeowner, could be held liable, like if you knew the tree was dying and didn’t do anything about it before it fell over. Here’s how to deal with a tree stump painlessly.