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The tree-trimming incident brought tears to your neighbor

You have lived next door to Margie for five years now. You get along well, and you thought you knew her—but that was before the tree-trimming incident.

Several branches of the box elder Margie owns hang over your property. You told your neighbor that you intend to trim those branches. Margie objected and started to weep. What happens now?

An emotional point of view

There is no denying that the large box elder that sports pink blossoms in the spring is your neighbor’s pride and joy. It takes up much of her small back yard, and the encroaching branches take up a considerable amount of space in your yard, which is of a similar size. You would like to plant a vegetable garden, but those branches are in the way and provide too much shade for the tomatoes and peppers you want to raise. Margie believes that cutting the branches back could be harmful to the tree. You do not agree. She believes your wish to trim the branches is purely malicious. She says she will take you to court if you make one cut, especially if your tree-trimming efforts should extend over the property line.

Considering value

The replacement value of most trees is between $500 and $2,500. California has some beautiful ornamental and unique trees, the value of which could be between $20,000 and $60,000. If Margie is right, and you do harm her tree by cutting the branches, you could be liable for triple the value of the box elder.

Moving forward

Having never before seen this side of your neighbor’s personality, you do not know how to respond. Perhaps a legal consultation is in order. Under California law, you cannot enter your neighbor’s property and commence cutting on her tree. You must stay on your side of the property line. If you do so, the law says you have the right to trim the limbs and branches that extend over that line. A sound legal approach would involve trying to negotiate a peaceful outcome of this issue with your neighbor. However, given Margie’s emotional attachment to her tree, resolution of the tree-trimming problem may be up to a court of law.

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