I receive many inquires about disputes with neighbors over trees. I received the following email and thought that the question and answer may interest some readers: Question: I have a question about ownership and responsibility of a tree that is on my… Read More ›
Here is information about what Long Island towns can do to help if you need to remove a tree or if you have a concern about a neighbor’s tree.
People frequently ask me questions about legal issues regarding trees on their property or their neighbor’s trees. I want to pass along a helpful article written by Carole Feldman for the Associated Press entitled, “What to Do, Whom to Call When a Tree Falls.”
A neighbor’s hedges raises highlights the difference between what’s legal and what’s right. You can trim your neighbor’s hedges (or bushes or trees) that extend onto or overhang your property as long as you do not damage your neighbor’s remaining hedges. While you have a legal right to cut the hedges that extended onto your property, I always think that it is best to speak to our neighbors before acting. Read more about this person’s predicament.
A question about a tree on the property line and a neighbor who wants the tree or a particular limb taken down. What should the homeowner do?
My question is whether a falling branch from a tree on private property twenty feet from the curb that falls on an auto is the responsibility of the property owner?
Question: I have a row of pine trees growing along my property. My neighbor’s pool sits about fifteen feet from our property line. He claims that the fallen needles from my pine trees have ruined his pool filter. I have pruned the branches on both sides of the line, leaving none hanging over his property. He still insists that I downsize these trees. His attorney sent a letter requesting that I trim back these trees. He claimed that New York State law prevents me from interfering with my neighbor’s “quiet time” of his property’. What can I do?
I received this question from a woman in Brooklyn and thought others might benefit from reading the answer.
“I fear the roots of my Brooklyn tree are damaging the foundation of my neighbor’s home. Can they sue me for damages? What if we agree to split the cost of tree removal?”
Before I address this particular situation, let’s look at the general obligation of the tree owner. You can be held liable if you knew or reasonably should have known about the damage caused by your tree or damage that your tree was likely to cause. This means that if a tree owner is aware of a problem or a potential problem, then the tree owner should take reasonable actions to remove the problem. If the tree owner fails to take reasonable actions, then the tree owner can be held responsible for the damage caused by the tree. (You might want to read my article, “A Neighbor’s Tree Threatens Your Property, What Can You Do?”)
I receive many questions and comments about issues relating to falling trees and tree branches and people concerned about their neighbor’s trees that could fall and cause damage. I want to share my answer to some questions I have received on the issue of falling trees. You can also read my articles “A Neighbor’s Tree Threatens Your Property, What Can You Do? and “Injuries Caused by Falling Trees and Branches: Who is Responsible?”
Question 1: Can my neighbor be held liable if a tree on his property falls and damages my house?
Answer 1: Under New York State law, the property owner may be liable if he has actual notice of a dead or decayed tree, and does nothing to remove or repair it. [Ivancic v. Olmstead, 66 N.Y.2d 349.] If your neighbor had prior notice of the danger and could have taken clear and reasonable steps to remove the threat, then he can be held liable for damage caused by the tree.
In my client’s case, she had a neighbor whose tree threatened her property. The tree was on the property line and, if it fell, would damage my client’s house. A storm had damaged the tree and while part of the tree thrived, much of it was clearly dead and decaying. My client spoke to her neighbor about the tree and the neighbor rejected her request that he remove the tree.
My client then did something very smart. She contacted an arborist (i.e., a tree expert) to examine the tree. The arborist found that the tree indeed was damaged, that much of it was decaying and posed an imminent threat. She contacted me to ask what to do.
Here’s what I suggested. First, she should take pictures and notify her insurance