Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

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davebo
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Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by davebo »

Prior to my current house, I've never really lived in an area with large mature trees. When I first got here, I notice the prior homeowner had put 2 sections of a solid fence in the FRONT of the house (full fence in the back). I thought it was kind of a funny move at the time, but now I'm seeing why he did it. If left on their own, the neighbors do not trim anything on their property. Over the last 4 years, it's just a bit mess over there. My fence keeps most of it away from me, but there is a part in the front of the house that is unfenced and where their shrubbery infringes on my property. All I can really do is MAYBE clear the area and mulch it, but lately all I’ve really done is clear/kill everything that comes over from their side leaving this small area a bit more “natural”.

I just invested in a tree saw and have been going wild cutting branches down that overhang onto my property. Most of the trees are weed trees that serve no purpose and just seem to multiply quickly, but I get pretty aggressive even with their nicer trees. One of the trees overhangs onto my path to my backyard and hundreds of these black berries end up dropping onto my path, which means then my kids walk over them and track them into the house. I just basically cut every single branch off the tree that comes over my way leaving it looking a little lopsided.

I have to admit that I think I get aggravated while I’m doing it so I think I end up taking it out on their tree. Part of me is hoping that when they see the piles and piles of branches that are by my street that they will realize that their trees (which really don’t serve a purpose) are causing me a lot of work.

The day after I lopped off a good section of his tree, I noticed he stopped in front of my house and looked at it for awhile. I think I’m in the legal right, but is this what most people do? DO you just cutoff the branches that hang over into your property?
PlayingLife
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by PlayingLife »

I moved into a home a year ago and have some dying pine trees between my house and my neighbors. They need to be dealt with..the neighbor didn't say a word to us for the first year but introduced himself when I was out watering the grass. RIght away he explained to me that the trees are directly on our property line (I didn't check the paperwork to be certain yet) and said he had no problem if "I wanted to take them out or clean them up all-together". It sounded like he wanted me to do the work of cleaning them up. They bug the heck out of me and when I am done pulling all my other overgrown shrubs up I probably will pro-actively tackle those trees.

Why don't you just have a down to earth convo with him? I think in the end you can only do what you are currently doing from a legal standpoint. In NJ I even know if a neighbors dead tree lands in your yard, it's your problem once it lands. If I were you and the tree bothered me that much, I would volunteer to remove it or have it removed. Good luck!
fposte
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by fposte »

I cut, but I check with my neighbors first. For shrubs over fenceline, where it's not that big a deal, I talked to them soon after I moved on and made it clear I wasn't doing to scythe stuff down to nothing on their side but just trim overhangs; when a tree branch started dangling on my roof, I called and left a message saying that I was going to trim back that part and that unless I heard from them I would assume it was okay.

We're both pretty quiet neighbors, so we don't talk all the time, but it's that kind of thing that's kept us friendly for 15 years. Which was a good history when my fencing guy drove his Bobcat over that neighbor's lawn :oops: .
likegarden
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by likegarden »

There was a thread here a month or so ago about this subject. I bought the NOLO 'Neighbor Law' book for $20 via Amazon, was quite instructive. Basically, it is common law, that you can cut off all branches hanging down over the property line, but may not kill neighbor's tree or bush doing it. Important is that you know exactly where the property line is.
My neighbor nearly had cut down 2 of my arborvitaes last year, had forgotten where my property line was. That would have been more than $500 for her to replace those of same size.
livesoft
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by livesoft »

I like my neighbors and I talk to all of them. I have asked them if they minded if I cut branches and also asked them if any trees on my property bothered them. I usually ask at least once a year. Since I get along with everybody, sometimes a neighbor will use me as a go-between when dealing with other neighbors.
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Watty
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by Watty »

It would be best if you just talked to your neighbor first.

It could be something like he has a bad back and is on a limited budget so that he has been having difficulty in keeping the trees trimmed. Or he may just not care and if you talk with him about the trees he might give you the OK to trim them evenly all around even though they are on his property. If it works out then spending an afternoon working on his trees may be frustrating in some ways but if it improves the appearance of both your properties it might be worth the frustration.
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by abuss368 »

I would consider napalm!
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davebo
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by davebo »

Watty wrote:It would be best if you just talked to your neighbor first.

It could be something like he has a bad back and is on a limited budget so that he has been having difficulty in keeping the trees trimmed. Or he may just not care and if you talk with him about the trees he might give you the OK to trim them evenly all around even though they are on his property. If it works out then spending an afternoon working on his trees may be frustrating in some ways but if it improves the appearance of both your properties it might be worth the frustration.
To give him some credit, the first week that I moved in his wife came over and told me they were taking down a dead tree that was on the property line. While it was a nice gesture, they hired some hillbilly with a chainsaw that ended up leaving a ton of wood clippings piled up on my property and never even bothered to remove the stump. Since I did not pay the bill, I couldn't see how I could call the guy up and demand that he remove the stump. Actually though, I did call him like 20 times to come remove the clippings, but ended up just doing it myself and called it a day.

For as much as I'm outside, I never see this guy; I have only talked to him once in the 4 years that I've lived here and I've only seen him a handful of times. I believe he works out of his house and they are just never outside.

I don't know, I kinda think that if you own a house then it's your duty to take care of the property. I think I'd be even more bitter if I spent my time and effort cleaning up his mess. Now, if he approached me and asked me for help then it'd be another thing but he has never acknowledged the fact that his negligence is causing me extra work.
fredjohnson
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by fredjohnson »

I cut any branch that comes over the property line, but I only cut it to the property line unless I ok it with my neighbor and he lets me cut it further up the tree on his side. There's not much else you can do without getting in trouble. Oh, and I've always made it a point to get along with all my neighbors, especially the ones on either side of me sharing the property line. It makes life much much easier.
rogers-SNK
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by rogers-SNK »

What state do you live in?

http://na.fs.fed.us/spfo/invasiveplants ... kthorn.pdf

If they are quick growing weed like trees with black berries sounds like they probably have buckthorn growing there. Buckthorn is a nasty invasive weed tree/bush. Where I live you are required to remove any buckthorn as its deemed invasive.

You should check with your city too, mine for instance as a compliance office you can call and ask for the city inspector to come investigate the property for maintenance issues.
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by jucor »

rogers-SNK wrote:What state do you live in?

http://na.fs.fed.us/spfo/invasiveplants ... kthorn.pdf

If they are quick growing weed like trees with black berries sounds like they probably have buckthorn growing there. Buckthorn is a nasty invasive weed tree/bush. Where I live you are required to remove any buckthorn as its deemed invasive.

You should check with your city too, mine for instance as a compliance office you can call and ask for the city inspector to come investigate the property for maintenance issues.
Calling the city to do a code violation fishing expedition on your neighbors is a GREAT way to cause major problems. :oops:
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by pshonore »

I would talk to the neighbors before making any major changes near the property line. And whatever you do, don't act like Larry Ellison
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davebo
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by davebo »

rogers-SNK wrote:What state do you live in?

http://na.fs.fed.us/spfo/invasiveplants ... kthorn.pdf

If they are quick growing weed like trees with black berries sounds like they probably have buckthorn growing there. Buckthorn is a nasty invasive weed tree/bush. Where I live you are required to remove any buckthorn as its deemed invasive.

You should check with your city too, mine for instance as a compliance office you can call and ask for the city inspector to come investigate the property for maintenance issues.

Yes, they are buckthorn and they completely line the property line (on his side). The fence in the back keeps it at bay, but they branches really start to creep over to my side over the fence. On the front part of the house, I have a partial fence that keeps some of it at bay but there is an open part that is particularly bothersome to me.

The ideal solution would be for him to just totally clear the area. A neighbor down the way did that and their yard looks great now. They didn't even plan anything else, they just put grass there.
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by nordlead »

jucor wrote:
rogers-SNK wrote:What state do you live in?

http://na.fs.fed.us/spfo/invasiveplants ... kthorn.pdf

If they are quick growing weed like trees with black berries sounds like they probably have buckthorn growing there. Buckthorn is a nasty invasive weed tree/bush. Where I live you are required to remove any buckthorn as its deemed invasive.

You should check with your city too, mine for instance as a compliance office you can call and ask for the city inspector to come investigate the property for maintenance issues.
Calling the city to do a code violation fishing expedition on your neighbors is a GREAT way to cause major problems. :oops:
My neighbor called the town for a code violation on me while I was actively working on resolving the issue (she didn't even talk to me).... She hasn't mowed in a few weeks now, I'm just waiting for the grass to get tall enough that I can call the town on her :twisted:
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by TTBG »

Part of me is hoping that when they see the piles and piles of branches that are by my street that they will realize that their trees (which really don’t serve a purpose) are causing me a lot of work.
That's usually not a very effective strategy (ask any marriage counselor :-) ).

Maybe the trees provide shade, or he thinks they are pretty, or that the berries are good for the birds. Or maybe he just has a much more laissez faire attitude towards property maintenance and he isn't aware of what a nuisance the trees are for you. You can't know until you talk to him about it.
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Pajamas
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by Pajamas »

Definitely try to talk to them. You want to maintain good relations. It sounds like they are aware that there is potentially a problem and that they probably don't care what you do as far as trimming the trees, except for the one that caused him to stare at your house.

Above all, don't be bitter about it, that is just the situation you have. You could certainly have worse neighbors, ones who are actively causing problems and disturbances, rather than just neglecting trees near the property line. They could be mowing the grass at 6 AM on Sunday, cutting down your trees, parking on your grass, shooting guns all day, burning big piles of trash, etc.

I have been involved in similar situations where I had to pay to take care of problems caused by the neighbor's tree but they simply did not have the money to address it.

Would it be possible to take care of the junk trees by cutting them down on the neighbor's property rather than just trimming them from your property? That would be desirable and would be the point of the conversation. If they can't do it, then you could possibly offer to have it done. If they won't do it, then you don't have to worry about trimming them from your side of the property.

You could pay to have the stump taken out, too. Since it is on the property line, it is partly your responsibility.

Also, that sounds like a mulberry tree you chopped up. Birds and other animals love those. They are tasty and make great jam. If you chopped up my mulberry tree without talking to me I would be pretty aggravated even knowing you had the right to that. It sounds like he felt the same way. I would have stared at your house, too. :twisted: Consider at least explaining the practical reasons why you did it.

I also am wondering if they deliberately are creating animal habitat. That is more popular in the UK than the U.S. but there are people here who do it, too.

Talk to them!
Last edited by Pajamas on Thu Jun 11, 2015 10:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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davebo
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by davebo »

TTBG wrote:
Part of me is hoping that when they see the piles and piles of branches that are by my street that they will realize that their trees (which really don’t serve a purpose) are causing me a lot of work.
That's usually not a very effective strategy (ask any marriage counselor :-) ).

Maybe the trees provide shade, or he thinks they are pretty, or that the berries are good for the birds. Or maybe he just has a much more laissez faire attitude towards property maintenance and he isn't aware of what a nuisance the trees are for you. You can't know until you talk to him about it.
Ha. That's probably true on piling up the branches.

As much as I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt, I think he's just lazy. This is probably 10 years (or more) of neglect on his part. My neighbor on the other side doesn't really like to do yardwork, trim trees or pull weeds either. But he solves his problem by not having any mulch area, shrubs, or large trees around his house. Hey, whatever works for you! I give him credit for creating a landscape environment that he can manage.

What I might end up doing is just extend the fence in the front of my house to the fence in the back. Then I could kill off everything on my side of the fence and then put some mulch or grass there.
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by livesoft »

Do you think that birds of a feather flock together? Why are you living in this neighborhood?
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by Mudpuppy »

nordlead wrote:My neighbor called the town for a code violation on me while I was actively working on resolving the issue (she didn't even talk to me).... She hasn't mowed in a few weeks now, I'm just waiting for the grass to get tall enough that I can call the town on her :twisted:
Unless your neighbor actively said "I called code on you", don't assume. My neighbor assumed I called code on him from his toy hauler and boat being parked in the driveway, but I did not. Code violation officers do random neighborhood sweeps around here. Sometimes you just get unlucky on the timing of those sweeps.

Neighborhood dramas are bad enough without letting assumptions come into play.

Back to the OP, as someone said, it could be worse. People do strange things. I live in a cul-de-sac, and there's a corner of the back yard where half a dozen yards meet. One of those neighbors hired a "hillbilly with a chainsaw" (as you put it) to take down a tree and instead took out that entire corner of fence by dropping a big branch on it. I just went over and talked to him about it, and he got everything cleaned up. I have another neighbor that has big pool parties on the weekend, and invariably one of his guests blocks me in my driveway because they park on the street in front of my driveway. At least they move the car quickly when I knock and say I have to run errands.

So just go knock on the door and talk to the guy. You don't have to wait to catch him in the yard. Most people are friendly enough when you knock on their door to chat. And if he's not friendly, then you know to progress on the plan to put a segment of fence in to cover the current gap between your front and back fences.
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by tennisplyr »

I've been in my house for 30+ years. I have found that generally speaking, homeowners are selfish people and are oblivious to their surroundings. Once in a while you find someone who is sensitive to others' needs but in my view it is not very common. If you want something you must ask and don't count on getting the answer that you want.
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davebo
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by davebo »

livesoft wrote:Do you think that birds of a feather flock together? Why are you living in this neighborhood?
Do you think I should just move out because I have a neighbor that doesn't trim his trees?
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by livesoft »

davebo wrote:
livesoft wrote:Do you think that birds of a feather flock together? Why are you living in this neighborhood?
Do you think I should just move out because I have a neighbor that doesn't trim his trees?
Definitely yes, since you are clearly irritated by it and you both do not like to talk to the neighbors.
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nordlead
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by nordlead »

Mudpuppy wrote:
nordlead wrote:My neighbor called the town for a code violation on me while I was actively working on resolving the issue (she didn't even talk to me).... She hasn't mowed in a few weeks now, I'm just waiting for the grass to get tall enough that I can call the town on her :twisted:
Unless your neighbor actively said "I called code on you", don't assume. My neighbor assumed I called code on him from his toy hauler and boat being parked in the driveway, but I did not. Code violation officers do random neighborhood sweeps around here. Sometimes you just get unlucky on the timing of those sweeps.
I agree with you, and I do try to be reasonable about it. The thing is, I know the town didn't do a sweep, or else they would have flagged me on more obvious code violations (this summers projects). This one was a pool that turned green when the pump failed during opening (worst time to have a pump fail), and you can't see the pool without walking well into my yard. She has bragged to another one of my neighbors that I get along with fine with, and the only other person who can see my pool has said they didn't complain about it (they knew I was ordering parts too).

All I'm really saying, is that calling the town in for a code violation without talking to the person first is a sure fire way to make things go poorly.
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by noyopacific »

tennisplyr wrote:I've been in my house for 30+ years. I have found that generally speaking, homeowners are selfish people and are oblivious to their surroundings. Once in a while you find someone who is sensitive to others' needs but in my view it is not very common. If you want something you must ask and don't count on getting the answer that you want.
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by Mrs.Feeley »

davebo wrote: Yes, they are buckthorn and they completely line the property line (on his side). The fence in the back keeps it at bay, but they branches really start to creep over to my side over the fence. On the front part of the house, I have a partial fence that keeps some of it at bay but there is an open part that is particularly bothersome to me.

The ideal solution would be for him to just totally clear the area. A neighbor down the way did that and their yard looks great now. They didn't even plan anything else, they just put grass there.
Oh man, buckthorn. We've been fighting the buckthorn battle for years, as have the neighbors. You can cut it down, dig it up, spray it with Round-Up, and a few months later you'll have another humongous patch of it. It grows and multiplies like a bush on steroids. Back in the 1950s our state DNR planted buckthorn as food and cover for deer. Not a good idea. Our city has given up on trying to keep it under control and the city parks are now overrun with it. Thus our yards are too. Your neighbor may consider the buckthorn a privacy hedge, or has no interest in fighting the buckthorn battle. Or may not realize how invasive it is. While normally I would never touch a neighbor's bushes without obtaining their permission, buckthorn is different. I would have no compunctions about lopping anything that came over the property line. Keep in mind that you may have to do this four or five times a summer to keep it under control.

Is that a native mulberry tree that's hanging over your driveway? The natives have purple berries. Birds and other wildlife love them. People do too. They're delicious. The invasive mulberries have white berries. No one eats the white berries. The trees do however cause a huge mess when the berries fall in late June. There was one down the street that hung over two neighbors' properties. Their driveways and sidewalks were purple for about two weeks. Hate to think of what their shoes looked like when they walked in the house. Finally the neighbors got together and cut it down. I'd love to have a native mulberry on our property, but would be less enthused if it were hanging over the driveway.
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davebo
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by davebo »

livesoft wrote:
davebo wrote:
livesoft wrote:Do you think that birds of a feather flock together? Why are you living in this neighborhood?
Do you think I should just move out because I have a neighbor that doesn't trim his trees?
Definitely yes, since you are clearly irritated by it and you both do not like to talk to the neighbors.
Who said I don't like to talk to the neighbors? I just don't really care to talk to this neighbor. I’ll say that these people are nice (from the times I’ve talked to them), they are just a bit odd and lazy. When the prior homeowner put a solid fence on the side of the FRONT that faces their property (unheard of around here), then I would think they would’ve gotten a hint.

Hey, I just kinda think if you are that lazy that you can’t take care of your house, then you should move into a condo…bada bing, bada boom.
likegarden
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by likegarden »

Remember that common law says that you may prune off any branches of neighbor's tree reaching into your property up to your property line as long as you do not kill the tree doing that. I am doing that on neighbor's 3 large arborvitaes because they hinder people reading my house meters, hinder my trees in growing, and I need the space to move my mower through. I mentioned that to my neighbor and they agreed. So I bought a 16 ft long pruner and every year do that work. No problem here, but it is a pain. Those arborvitaes looked so cute when planted, but now want to grow 40 ft tall and 20 ft wide, and more. Hopefully there will be a big ice storm!
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by music_man »

I have a very large Oak tree in my backyard that has branches that extend far over my neighbor's property. A few years ago, an unfortunate incident happened where a large branch that extended over into my neighbor's property fell right on their car crashing through their moonroof. Needless to say, they weren't very happy. I was told by tree services that in my state, the laws are such that wherever the tree falls, that owner bears the burden, so I was off the hook. However, I went and had all the deadwood trimmed on my side and theirs after that one time as a goodwill gesture. Now, they pretty much get any deadwood trimmed on their side and I do the same on my side and all is well. Best to have conversation with the neighbor and get on the same page.
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by 555 »

livesoft wrote:I like my neighbors and I talk to all of them. I have asked them if they minded if I cut branches and also asked them if any trees on my property bothered them. I usually ask at least once a year. Since I get along with everybody, sometimes a neighbor will use me as a go-between when dealing with other neighbors.
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by livesoft »

^Funny, but my spouse's name is Jane and she already does that.
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woodenpelican
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Re: Tree Trimming Etiquette with Neighbors

Post by woodenpelican »

Check your city ordinances/code. Where we live, we can cut anything that crosses the property line, provided it doesn't kill the tree. For trees that are growing on the actual property line, the tree technically "belongs" to both you and your neighbor.

We have a good relationship with our neighbor to the north and every fall we cut back all of the trees/bushes that overhang our yard to our fence line. They have no problem with this. The relationship with the neighbor to the south is a little more strained. They have a very large tree which was dropping significant dead matter in our yard and into our gutters, and providing access for racoons and other animals to run along the branches and get onto our roof. We approached them about having an arborist cut some branches, which they refused due to money reasons (we offered to split the cost). So we waited until they went on vacation and cut off almost all the branches on our side. It was very very visually obvious but they never said anything. As a bonus, if the tree falls down during a storm or what have you (it is very tall), it is now weighted on their side and will hopefully fall onto their house and not ours :D
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