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