California Oak TreeWhen a tree is planted between property lines, disputes may arise, and an otherwise neighborly relationship may be strained. Or perhaps a tree fell, and now no one knows who should cover the cost. From dangerous tree removal to the just plain annoying tree debris landing in the yard, there are ways to work out tree problems and maintain good neighborly relations.

Most shared tree problems fall into three main categories:

1. Hazardous Tree Removal: The neighbor’s tree is dead, split or leaning. The homeowner next door wants the tree removed before it falls in the yard and perhaps hits the house or other property.

2. Property Damage: The neighbor’s tree has fallen and damaged property. Payment for tree removal service and damage repair is required.

3. Poor Maintenance: The tree is growing over the next door neighbor’s roof. Debris keeps falling in the yard, pool or patio. The tree needs professional maintenance to resolve the problem.

“Don’t touch a neighbor’s tree,” advises Lou Giroud, ISA Certified Arborist and President, Giroud Tree and Lawn. “By law provided there is no trespassing, a homeowner has the right to take care of the portion of the tree on their property. However, to avoid conflict and potential legal issues, get the neighbor’s permission before taking any action.”

Here’s how to proceed. “Start with an evaluation by an ISA Certified Arborist,” suggests Mr. Giroud. “Ask the Arborist to assess the situation and provide a recommendation in writing. Share the professional evaluation with your neighbor, especially if the tree is deemed a hazard and removal by a tree removal service is required.

The next step is to reach out to the neighbor. “In working with thousands of tree issues between neighbors,” explains Mr. Giroud, “I’ve found that the best results are gained through friendly communication.”

1. If the neighbor is approachable, call or visit. Schedule a time to talk about the tree problem. Calmly present the issue and share the recommendation from the tree service company. If the neighbor can’t pay for the work, offer to pay for it or share in the cost.

2. If the neighbor is never home, write a friendly letter explaining the concern and attach the Arborist’s recommendation.

3. If the neighbor doesn’t respond, send a certified letter. As a last resort, hire an attorney specializing in tree law.

Disputes with a neighbor can cause a lot of stress. An ISA Certified Arborist can evaluate the situation and help make the job of negotiating with a neighbor a little easier.

If you are in the process of buying or selling a home, your Century 21 Hometown Realty agent can help you.