Buffington Law Firm's Real Estate Litigation Attorneys have considerable experience in dealing with situations in which a neighbor decides to badly damage or destroy our client's trees. We have also successfully defended clients who inadvertantly removed or destroyed the trees on the property of an adjoining landowner.
The scenario is commonly a situation in which one neighbor loves the trees on his or her property, while for one reason or another the neighbor dislikes the trees. Sometimes the tree sheds leaves that the adjoining neighbor dislikes. Or perhaps the tree blocks a view. Sometimes trees can be dangerous such as situations in which a branch overhangs onto an adjoining neighbor's land and threatens to drop, possibly causing damage to a home or other structure, possibly even threatening bodily injury. Eucalyptus trees are particularly notorious for this problem, known as "summer branch drop." Lastly, sometimes roots extruding from a tree trunk cross the property line and cause damage to a neighbor's property.
In such cases there is a temptation for the person who dislikes the trees to take matters into his or her hands and either trim the tree or do even more. Generally a person has a common law right to trim branches or roots to the extent that these cross the property line onto one's property.
Unfortunately, California law makes it very dangerous to do more than lightly trim those portions of a neighbor's tree that cross your property line. While there is a common right to do this, the law is tempered by a requirement that the trimming be "reasonable." What this means in practice is that if a person trims another person's tree to such an extent that the tree is permanently damaged, that person may be liable for double or even treble damages. There are professional arborists who make very good livings testifying that these sort of occurrences damaged a tree in amounts in the thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars.
You can read our more detailed article concerning wrongful tree removal and how California law applies here.
Buffington Law Firm recommends that if you have a serious issue with a neighbor's tree that you should not do more than very lightly trim those portions of the tree that extrude onto your property. If more than this is required, contact one of our real estate litigation attorneys for a free legal consultation. At this meeting you will speak directly to an experienced attorney and we can discuss your rights and the recommended course of action. Often these problems can be resolved quickly and economically. Call us today!