A recent Land Court case, Bassin v. Fairley, 11 MISC 451773 (AHS) (Mass. Land Ct. June 17, 2014), provides a good reminder of the kind of inquiry a court will make when deciding whether a landowner can remove a tree that straddles a common boundary line.
To the unwary, it might be surprising that property dating back to the 1870s could, almost 150 years later, fall prey to a boundary line dispute. But it does happen, as the recent case, Bernier v. Fredette, 85 Mass. App. Ct. 265 (2014), reminds us.
It is certainly not unusual to hear about tree cutting cases where a landowner wants to trim the branches of a neighbor's tree that overhang the common boundary line-which is lawful, to a point-or even those cases where a person trespasses onto the land of another to trim or cut down trees entirely situated on that lot-which is unlawful. Whatever the underlying motivation for such trimming and cutting, Massachusetts law is fairly clear about whether liability and damages will ensue under those circumstances.