Specifically, the Attorney General made clear that under Maryland law, the right or duty of a homeowner to cut a neighbor’s encroaching tree branches back to the property line depends on the condition of the tree and the nature of the abutting property. Can I cut down the branches of a neighbor’s tree that is hanging over my property? The Law. In this situation, Maryland has adopted the “Massachusetts Rule” and D.C. has adopted a slightly modified version thereof. I find a distance of only 2 m (6 ½ feet) between a really large tree and the boundary line a bit thin, but at least the law is clear. From branches that inch over the property line to tall trees that block a view, dealing with plants that affect multiple properties is tricky! The Fancher court clarified that its prior rule was for. Whether you can cut your neighbor’s tree that has branches hanging over your land, the Maryland courts follow the “Hawaiian Rule” whereby the owner of the tree has no obligation to control the growth of the tree or to pay for damage to your property caused by the overhanging limbs. The tree canopy is huge. Additional Damages and Criminal Penalties for Intentional Damage to Trees in Maryland. You can not make your neighbor do it or pay for it. Hiring an attorney is an important decision which should not be based solely on advertising. Our tree dispute and property dispute attorneys have handled tree lawsuits and property lawsuits in Montgomery County Circuit Court (Rockville, MD), Prince George’s County Circuit Court (Upper Marlboro, MD), Howard County Circuit Court (Ellicott City, MD), Frederick County Circuit Court (Frederick, MD), Baltimore County Circuit Court (in Towson, MD), and DC Superior Court (in Washington DC). This legal right in Maryland is referred to as “self help.” While self-help is often the remedy to be used by a neighbor in the face of an encroaching living tree, such a remedy is not always the case. The rights of a property owner when a neighbor’s tree, tree limb, or roots damages their property. The Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library, a court-related agency of the Maryland Judiciary, sponsors this site. Situation 3. If your property backs onto a road and has a problem with overhanging trees, it’s possible the Highways Agency might ask you to remove them. The Hensley court noted that the general rule was that the rural landowner did not have a duty to inspect rural trees abutting public roads for dead or decaying limbs due to the practical difficulty of doing so, however, in a more urban setting, since the landowner may only be responsible for a few trees (which can be more easily inspected), there will exist a duty to use due care to protect others from damage or injury caused by dead or decaying trees. Relying on the easements granted to them many years ago, the utilities are often permitted to remove trees that they deem to be a future threat to their power lines. A landowner can still be held liable where dead or dying tree limbs from trees on his property injure others. The potential legal liabilities of property owners when their trees threaten or actually cause damage to their neighbor’s property. If limbs or branches belonging to a neighbor's tree extend over your property line, you are legally allowed to trim the areas hanging over your property. In England and Wales the authorities have powers to act against potential damage-causing trees on private property. In 1960, the highest court in Washington, DC stated in Dudley v. Meadowbrook, Inc.: We think the sound and practical rule is that liability in such cases is to be determined by the test of negligence and that a landowner should be held to the duty of common prudence in maintaining his property, including trees thereon, in such a way as to prevent injury to his neighbor’s property. When a tree on your property hangs over the boundary line into another yard, you have a duty to address all weak or damaged branches. Massachusett's Homeowners Rights on Trees Overhanging Property Lines. When branches or roots belonging to a neighbor's tree hangs over your property, you have a right to trim it back to the property line. Legal. In Fancher v. Fagella, the Virginia Supreme Court held that where a neighbor’s tree causes harm or poses an imminent danger of harm to an adjoining property, the tree owner “may be held responsible” for this harm. 1988); Dudley v. Meadowbrook, Inc. 166 A.2d 743 (Md. Tree removal has been the subject of a lot recent legal and litigation discussion. You can cut back anything up to your property line. Instead of researching the issue, the day laborer was turned loose on the trees like Jason in Friday the 13th. 10411 Motor City Drive Can I cut those branches to limit the amount of leaves? Leaves from the neighbor’s tree consistently clog my gutters and fill my yard. If the neighbor's tree is near the property line, but not actually crossing it, no trimming can take place by the other neighbor without first obtaining permission to do so. or branches of the trees extend over the line (Bloch [Tree Law Cases in the USA]). Each landowner has an interest in both boundary and border line trees. Specifically, the Attorney General made clear that under Maryland law, the right or duty of a homeowner to cut a neighbor’s encroaching tree branches back to the property line depends on the condition of the tree and the nature of the abutting property. Usually this… If you damage the structure of a neighbor's tree, you may be liable for damages. Even if the tree trunk is on your neighbor’s property, you have the responsibility for cutting any branches that extend onto your property line. In general, the issues that can develop from fallen trees, dangerous trees, or hazardous trees include: Questions related to tree-damage liability were recently addressed by former Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, whose office was asked to provide written clarification about the state of Maryland law in this area. For example, in Hensley v. Montgomery County, the Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals found that the owner of rural or suburban forest land is not liable for the damage done by dead tree limbs falling onto property unless the tree constitutes a “danger to lawful users of abutting public roads and the owner is aware or should be aware of the tree’s deteriorated condition.”  The court differentiated the difference between a rural owner (such as Potomac, Maryland) and an urban or suburban owner (such as Rockville, Maryland or Bethesda, Maryland), But what duty does the rural landowner have relative to learning the health of his rural trees? 3 One month later, Gary Stocks and Daniel Kirchner of North Carolina were killed in an alleged tree dispute between neighbors. In Cline v. Dunlora South, LLC, the court specifically stated “this Court has never recognized, nor do our precedents support, a ruling that a landowner owes a duty to protect travelers on an adjoining public roadway from natural conditions on his or her land.”. Trees add structure and drama to a garden but their size and potential to cause nuisance or damage means they can sometimes be a worry. Article from 2014. The law allows you to take the branches from your side of the property line, but should you take one splinter more or stray by so much as a fraction of an inch into your neighbor’s yard, you are committing a trespass and could find yourself liable. In other examples, our law firm has represented individuals against governments related to tree hazards/damage and against neighbors for tree hazards/damage. By continuing to use this site you consent to the use of cookies on your device as described in our cookie policy unless you have disabled them. We have also address property issues related to fence laws and adverse possession. Washington, DC has less guidance than Maryland regarding tree damage liability. One of the most common issues homeowners face is when a tree's roots or branches extend over the property line onto a neighbor's adjoining property. This can require a survey, which could be expensive. Under the law, trees are considered a part of the property and landowners have a right to that tree, even if it is only halfway on the property. Longman & Van Grack, LLC Because of this, it is best practice to get a neighbor’s permission before removing any tree that sits on the property line. Homeowners can refuse this, but the authorities are within their power to remove the trees without consent. A sapling planted 15 feet in from a property line in 1970 could today have branches, limbs or roots that extend far over the owner's property line. As a storm approaches or yearly growth increases, are you prepared for what could happen with your trees? While Washington, DC formerly followed the same “Massachusetts Rule” that Maryland follows, Washington, DC decided in 1960 to follow a slightly different rule. Basic real property law provides that the property boundary goes straight up into the sky and that each property owner has the right to cut down any branches or anything which hangs over onto one's real property. Some encroaching trees may be dangerous or may cause damage to property. Under that doctrine, the neighbor could obtain title to your property if they possess the property for a 20 year period, and such possession is actual, open, notorious, exclusive and adverse to your claim of ownership. ... and cut off vines and branches hanging over my fence. Only if those branches extend into your property line. Law #1 :: Any part of your tree that goes over your neighbor’s fence is technically theirs. Trees and Property. Self-Sown Trees In fact, in a 1988 decision, the Maryland Court of Appeals specifically held that a landowner could not bring a lawsuit against a neighbor whose trees and other vegetation encroached and damaged his property. If the entire trunk is in the other yard, the neighbor owns the tree. What can I do? Branches of the neighbor’s tree hang in my yard. Once a property boundary has been crossed, a neighbor's trees can impact one's own property, causing damage to fences, sidewalks and other structures. However we do not provide legal advice - the application of the law to your individual circumstances. Suite 750 #6E Rules, Title 15, Chapter 500, This site offers legal information, not legal advice. When branches or roots belonging to a neighbor's tree hangs over your property, you have a right to trim it back to the property line. The laws clearly state that if the tree trunk is in one person's property and the branches overhang into another person's property, the other property owner has all rights … The first thing to do is check the laws about tree overhanging the property line. All the owners are responsible for caring for the tree, and one co-owner may not remove a healthy tree without the other owners' permission. No. Under Maryland law, there is no cause of action available to you for the cost of cleaning your gutters of the leaves which have fallen from your neighbor’s trees. 8:30 am - 8:00 pm, Mon - Fri, From MD Legal Aid; Edited by www.peoples-law.org/contributors. You should also check with your county and municipality to see whether they have other requirements you must follow in order to trim or remove a roadside tree. There are trees on my property line that are hanging over on towards my side.they are endandering my home and family.do - Answered by a verified Lawyer . As noted by the Court of Appeals. Branch of the law: Rules about trees that straddle property lines rooted in common courtesy . Again, these laws can differ in each state, so be sure to look up the exact law in your area. 511, 540 A.2d 1133 (1988), the Maryland Court of Appeals held that a landowner does not have a cause of action against an adjoining landowner when trees, vines, roots, and other plants or plant debris from the adjoiner’s property encroach upon and cause damage to the landowner’s property. In this case you must contact your local authority. We use cookies to give you the best possible experience on our website. That's right, even if the tree is rooted in your neighbor's yard, if it crashes onto your property, it's your problem. According to common law in Connecticut, it’s your legal responsibility to make sure that the trees on your property don’t pose an “unreasonable danger” to others. The law is unclear on whether landowners can remove a tree themselves when it sits on a property line. If any limbs extend over the property line, they fall into that neighbor’s jurisdiction. If the tree is on the property line, both property owners share the value of the tree and are responsible for upkeep on their side of the boundary line. Thus, if a tree falls in Washington, DC on a neighboring property, the ordinary laws of negligence will apply. While the homeowner may be permitted to cut his neighbor’s encroaching branches, the homeowner is generally limited to cutting back growth the property line and the homeowner may not enter the adjoining homeowner’s property to remove the growth without the neighbor’s consent. Situation 2. Neighbor's Trees Trees and neighbors and the law. Feel free to ask to speak with one of our two real property litigators directly: Adam Van Grack or Theodore Kiviat. If it is found that the fence is on your property, you should take some action or risk losing ownership rights under the doctrine of adverse possession. Neighbors have the legal right to trim any hanging tree limb that crosses over their property line. In a clarification decision in 2012, the Virginia Supreme Court decided not to extend the Fancher ruling to rural settings. You should only enter that portion of your neighbor’s property to which your neighbor grants you access, and you should comply with any other lawful conditions they may impose. Most trees have a replacement value of between $500 and $2500. Then imagine your surveyor properly locates the boundary and you set up one of those rotating red lasers on the line. Fax: (301) 291-5028 If you damage the structure of a neighbor's tree, you may be liable for damages. Property owners in every state have the right to cut off branches and roots that stray into their property. You may not enter your neighbor’s property to trim or remove a tree or other plant without first getting your neighbor’s consent. To remove the tree, both property owners must consent. Although Maryland has had no court case dealing with an invasive species, Maryland’s courts seem to be limiting all plant overgrowth cases to self-help, meaning a neighboring landowner will bear the burden of stopping overgrowth on his/her property. Can I force a neighbor to pay for cleaning out my gutters clogged with leaves from his or her tree? We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information and to clearly explain your options. You cannot cut down the tree without getting the permission of your neighbor. He should get out his saw. This means that if a tree is overhanging into your property, you can cut the branches up to your property line without encroaching into your neighbor's property. That was the case for Phyllis J., a Davey blog reader from Arizona who wrote about a palm tree that sits on the corner of her lot. If a neighbor’s tree encroaches over the property line and presents a danger to the homeowner, the burden is on the homeowner to protect his property by cutting the invading branches and roots to the extent that they protrude on the homeowner’s property. Or your neighbors’ trees? In most cases this is the only help that is provided by the law, even when damage from a tree is substantial. An unauthorized entry onto the land of your neighbor constitutes a trespass for which your neighbor could seek damages against you. Does a homeowner have a similar right? You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. If you do harm the tree, you could be found liable for up to three times the value of the tree. It is essential that you determine the location of your property line. Thus landowners in Maryland are provided with certain legal rights to themselves control their neighbor’s living trees, plants, roots, or vines that have encroached on their land within Maryland. With Offices in Maryland (Rockville or Bethesda), and Washington, DC, the attorneys at Longman & Van Grack assist clients throughout Washington, DC and Maryland including Montgomery County, Howard County, Prince George’s County, Chevy Chase, Darnestown, Gaithersburg, Germantown, Potomac, Silver Spring, and Wheaton. In the 2012 case of Rony v Costa, a property owner hired an unlicensed day laborer to trim limbs that crossed his property line from a neighboring tree. Consult Request. © 2021 Longman & Van Grack, LLC All Rights Reserved, Montgomery County Maryland Lawsuits & Trials, Administrative Appeals and Petition for Review, Tax Court Appeals and Tax Petitions for Review, Estate Administration and Estate Planning, Estate Planning & Administration Overview, Sports Law & Outdoor Recreation Law Overview, Contract and Document Review for Sports & Outdoors Industry, Liability Waivers for Sports & Outdoors Industry, Olympic and Professional Athlete Legal Representation, Legal Liability for Tree Damage in Maryland, Virginia, and DC. The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You may cut a branch, vine, or root of a neighbor’s tree or other plant that extends onto your property, but only back to the neighbor’s property line. Being living organisms, trees grow and spread over time. Read the Rules: Md. A large tree limb leaning over … A tree cutter would be hired and generally would cut and remove all of the tree materials on your property up to the property line. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters, and electronic mail. Learn your rights and responsibilities regarding trees on neighboring properties If the trunk of the tree is on the property line you jointly own the three with your neighbor. Maryland in a dispute over who owned three trees.2One year later, in March 2013, Emmy Award-winning film director John Upton was shot during a dispute when his neighbor attempted to cut down trees that provided shade My neighbor has put up a fence that goes over my property. Maintenance of trees on private property can often lead to disputes between neighbours when a tree has been planted close to the property line. The law allows you to take the branches from your side of the property line, but should you take one splinter more or stray by so much as a fraction of an inch into your neighbor’s yard, you are committing a trespass and could find yourself liable. If a neighbor’s tree encroaches over the property line and presents a danger to the homeowner, the burden is on … Neighboring landowners have legal rights regarding adjacent trees and tree growth, and there is significant law in Maryland, Virginia, and DC regarding tree related lawsuits, tree disputes, and tree litigation. Courts have upheld that a homeowner’s tree rights extend indefinitely upward on his property line, and those rights are protected from invasion by an adjoining landowner. Corp., et al., 312 Md. © Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library, 2021.”, Submit a legal information question to the Thurgood Marshall State Law Library, Call or chat with a lawyer about your civil legal matter, at no cost A reader wrote asking for more information about tree liability: "Yes, by law you or I can cut back to the property line anything that hangs in or over our property … One often-overlooked legal issue related to storms and property damage in Maryland, Virginia, and DC is potential legal liability related to tree damage, at risk trees, or fallen trees. Understanding UK law relating to trees can help everyone grasp the rights and responsibilities of tree ownership. You may be violating local law if your tree (no matter how beautiful) presents a hazard to your neighbor (for example, if dangerous limbs hang over the neighbor’s property), violates any height limits or view ordinances, or straddles the property line. Maryland does not have a specific law defining and regulating boundary fences, but there might be a local ordinance (in your city, county, or town) that has rules on boundary fences. If you suffer any damage from the overhanging branches, the neighbor is not liable because your remedy is to trim the encroaching branches. If you have a dead tree on your property, cutting it down could be a smart move. When a neighbors tree branch is over hanging an adjoining property line, the adjoining property owner has an absolute right to cut the branch up to the property line. Instead, you should first obtain your neighbor’s consent before entering their property. But he cannot cut the tree down or cause it to be killed. If you would like to discuss our assistance with a litigation, tree, or property matter, call Longman & Van Grack’s attorneys today at (301) 291-5027 to schedule a consultation in our Bethesda, Maryland, Rockville, Maryland, or Washington, DC offices. 1961). If my neighbor owns a fruit tree, and the branches hang over my property… If they decide the tree is likely to cause damage, they can take several courses of action. We have gotten along very well in Maryland, for over 350 years, without authorizing legal actions of this type by neighbor against neighbor. It extends way over the property line, over your yard or even your house. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. In the absence of file-specific attribution or copyright, the Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library may hold the copyright to parts of this website. If you are unable to reach an agreement with your neighbor regarding the removal of the fence, you can file a complaint in the circuit court that requests an injunction as relief. Property owners in every state have the right to cut off branches and roots that stray into their property. Learn more about how to file a case. The rights of a property owner to remove or trim their neighbor’s tree roots. When a neighbors tree branch is over hanging an adjoining property line, the adjoining property owner has an absolute right to cut the branch up to the property line. You are responsible for the cost of cutting any branches you choose to trim. Accordingly, while in Maryland, an owner of rural or suburban forest land may likely not be liable for damage done by dead tree limbs falling onto the property or persons of others unless the tree constitutes a danger to lawful users of abutting public roads and the owner is aware or should be aware of the tree’s deteriorated condition, a urban homeowner may very well be liable for the same injury since the owner will likely have far fewer trees to inspect and, therefore, is seen to have a duty to know about the existence of dead or decaying trees on the owner’s urban property. Courts have upheld that a homeowner’s tree rights extend indefinitely upward on his property line, and those rights are protected from invasion by an adjoining landowner. For legal advice, you should consult an attorney. This will keep you safe from any legal action. In Melnick v. C.S.X. Act of God. Under the guidelines of the civil code, the trunk of the tree determines the legal owner. Generally, if a tree trunk sits on both you and your neighbor’s property, is owned by both of you, and you are both responsible for the tree. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established. Melnick v. CSX Corp., 540 A.2d 1133 (Md. That's right, even if the tree is rooted in your neighbor's yard, if it crashes onto your property, it's your problem. Under Maryland law, you are responsible for the proper care and maintenance of your trees and, if they become a nuisance, you may be liable for damages. Neighbor law. Property owners in every state have the right to cut off branches and roots that stray into their property, in most cases this is the only help that is provided by the law, even when damage from a tree is substantial. If Maryland does not have such a law, general Maryland criminal statutes, such as those related to theft or property damage, may still apply. You may not go onto the neighbor's property or destroy the tree. Options for tree maintenance near service wires or between poles on or near your property are explained below. As a general rule of law, you can trim back any part of any tree that is hanging over/encroaching into your property. First of all imagine a large oak growing over the property line. Overhanging Branches on Your Property. What a person’s rights and obligations are as they pertain to their trees or the trees of the neighbors depends upon state law. In 2007, the Supreme Court of Virginia made a ruling that differs from the general rules in Maryland and Washington, DC related to tree liability and tree damage in Virginia. Safety: Do not climb trees or trim trees that are located near power lines without taking necessary precautions first. The Maryland Judiciary, sponsors this site line trees no single neighbor can decide remove... You must contact your local authority trees Overhanging property lines Overhanging branches, the neighbor ’ s property cookies. That straddle property lines their neighbor ’ s tree roots their neighbor s! Root systems, and no single neighbor can decide to remove the tree without getting the permission of your are! It to be killed Grack or Theodore Kiviat line are considered joint property and. Without getting the permission of your neighbor Thurgood Marshall state law Library, a court-related agency the... 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