Jul 3, 2014

How can I deal with my neighbor's problematic trees?

When the roots of a neighbor's large tree travel to your backyard, what can you do about it? When the branches of a neighbor's large tree hang over your backyard and house, what can you do about it? When a large branch breaks off, hits your house twice and lands outside your kitchen window, what can you do about it? I would like some advice from someone who would know on what to do? Anonymous via email

Sandusky tree commission member Breann Hohman provided the following response:

Many of these issues come down to landowner responsibility and landowner rights. I am not a lawyer and will not try to give legal advice in this situation but my general knowledge and previous experience on these matters is this:

• Roots of neighbors a tree encroaching on property: Unfortunately, trees are not mindful of property boundaries, and large trees, especially silver maples, can cause many surface traveling roots that can cover a large distance, even outside the “drip edge,” which is the at the edge of the trees crown. Unless the roots were damaging tile or your homes foundation, there might be little you can do without damaging the health of the tree.

• When a tree or large branches fall in your yard or damage property: Often storms and high winds that can bring down trees and limbs are considered “acts of God” and are covered under your homeowners policy. If the tree was documented to be neglected by the owner and at risk of falling and it fell on your home, fence, car, etc., you have a better chance of making your neighbors' homeowners insurance pay for the damages. (I have personal experience of this, and this was the response from my own homeowners insurance. It would be best to contact your insurance agent and question what is covered in your policy and go from there).

• Removing neighbors tree roots from yard: This is a tricky one because the damage to a tree's roots could kill the tree or reduce its stability, which could cause it to fall. I would not recommend doing this.

• Cutting overhanging branches from neighbors tree: My understanding is that you can remove any branches that overhang onto your property. Again be cautious. Improper trimming can damage the tree, and if you damage your neighbors' property, they can in turn come back on you.

My advice is to talk to you neighbor about your concerns with the tree, and try to resolve the situation together. Many homeowners are unaware that trees need maintenance, like trimming, so that they do not become an issue to others. Many residents incur “issue” trees planted many years before they purchased a home, like a tree planted too close to a property line, fence, building, etc. When planting a new tree, it is always best to see how large a tree will grow and determine whether or not it is the right species for that site.  Also talk to your insurance company so you understand you and your neighbors responsibility should the tree cause damage to property.

Note: The next installment of the Mailbag will be on Monday.

The Mailbag is a daily feature on sanduskyregister.com. Each weekday at noon, we will post one question from a reader and answer it. To ask a question, send a letter to The Mailbag at 314 W. Market St., or email mailbag@sanduskyregister.com. Please include your first name and a location in the email, e.g. “John from Decatur Street."


getit right be4...

If you are the one worried about the tree perhaps you should offer to pay for some professional company to trim and dead wood it. If you and your neighbor have any respect for each other that should take care of the problem. The professional tree workers will also take a good look at the health of the tree.

God Of Thunder

Anything that encroaches over your property line, you are within your rights to cut it. If roots are growing close to the foundation, i would dig them up and cut them out. Repair to a house is a lot cheaper than repairing a foundation.


roundup 55 gallon drum

red white and blue

Copper nail in the tree


"Overhanging branches": (a) Verbally request a resolution with the neighbor (make notes of the day and time), (b) if unresolved you must notify them of the issue in writing (a certified letter is best for documentation purposes), (c) second written notification, (d) if the issue is still unresolved you are then allowed to remove said branches in a safe manner for you and your property, your neighbor and his/her property and for the tree's health (proper cutting is a must), (e) you must then offer the cut limbs to your neighbor and if they are not interested it becomes your responsibility for their removal.

Fibber Mcgee

Where did you find this stuff?