Neighbors often share certain parts of their yards near or at the boundary line. For example, neighbors may split the costs to maintain or install a fence along their shared property line. They might both benefit from a tree planted near the property line that provides shade during the warm summers and color during the fall.
However, trees near boundary lines are also sources of disputes between neighbors. Trees can become a nuisance, pushing the roots up under your driveway, shading out your cherished perennial garden or spitting their sap all over your lawn so that you can’t go barefoot in your own backyard.
What rights do you have when a neighbor’s tree becomes a nuisance due to encroaching on your property?
Massachusetts has a common-sense approach to trees that go over a boundary line
There are state laws and numerous court rulings in Massachusetts that contribute to your rights as a property owner. When it comes to boundary trees, this area of law has plenty of precedent. A tree directly on the boundary line requires the care and investment of both neighbors. Neither should do anything to the section of the tree on their property that would cause the illness or death of the entire tree.
Even if the tree falls quite a bit back from the boundary line, you do have the right to trim the parts that hang over your property. However, you should do so with care so that you don’t cause damage to the tree itself. The roots are another matter. While you may be able to trim them back in some cases, prudence is necessary because of the damage it may cause to the tree as a whole.
Talking with your neighbor is an important step
Some people don’t like to discuss the annoyance caused by their neighbors’ tree with that neighbor out of fear of damaging their relationship. However, taking action without talking first could do even more harm.
Explaining your concerns to the neighbor and your plans to trim a branch or two might help you avoid potential litigation from a neighbor who wants to claim that you caused unnecessary damage to a tree on their property. Learning more about your rights as a homeowner can help you avoid or appropriately respond to real estate litigation related to a tree on a boundary line.