Your Neighbor’s Tree and You
A tree that makes you nervous for the safety of your home can be stressful. At times this means hiring someone to remove or prune the tree to reduce the risk but what do you do if the tree sits on a neighboring property? Here are some tips.
Talk to Your Neighbor
This should be the first step of any interactions about any property conflicts but discuss the issue with your neighbor first. See if they are willing to have the tree removed or even offer to split the cost with them. Open lines of communication are important within a community so talk with them first before taking any action. Also, if you are living in a community with an HOA or a town with tree protection laws, make sure the work you decide to do will not expose you to fines or legal action.
Your Property Line Rights
In Florida, property line rights extend upwards, meaning you have the legal right to prune a tree that overhangs your yard up to the property line in most communities. However, this may create a hazard, an unsightly tree, or an irate neighbor if done too heavily. Try to work with your neighbor and an ISA-certified arborist first. To find an arborist in your area, visit www.treesaregood.org/findanarborist/ .
However, if the trunk of the tree is on the property line, ownership is shared between both landowners. This is another case where communication is key, so discuss any work to be done with your neighbor first. For more information on Florida property line laws see https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fe962
Is It a Hazard?
One big question is if the tree poses a hazard. Any tree can become an issue: if it is diseased, infested with the wrong insects, not cared for properly, or affected by severe weather, such as lightning or high winds. Determining the condition of the tree can be helpful and the recommendation is to seek out the advice of an ISA (international Society of Arborists)-Certified arborist. They can help determine what work may be needed or if removal is recommended but once again, if the tree is on your neighbors property, talk to them first.
What if it Falls?
Hopefully issues are resolved before this happens but sometimes they cannot be. Responsibility for damage can be different depending on the situation:
- If the tree was healthy and falls onto your property, by Florida law you are responsible for the section on your property and damage that results. This means that if it ends up on your home or belongings, your insurance is usually involved. In severe weather even trees that are perfectly healthy may uproot, snap, or get struck by lightning . Good neighbors may offer to help with costs or labor to solve the issue but they are not legally required to do so.
- If the tree was known to be a hazard and falls onto your property, the owner of the tree is responsible for any damage that results. The determination of health should be done by a certified arborist and it is best to work with neighbor beforehand to get issues resolved before this happens. Determining tree health and responsibility after an event can delay insurance claims and lead into legal issues.
- For more information on these potential issues, see https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fe962.
What if I Own the Hazard Tree?
On the flip side, if you have a tree you know to be a hazard to your neighbors property or your own, it is best to get it fixed. Hire an arborist and follow their advice to try to protect yourself and your community from tree issues.
If you have any questions about these issues or need help finding a local ISA-certified arborist, reach out to your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.