October 22

“Can My Neighbor Cut My Tree” and Other Commonly Asked Questions



Trees have been a source of contention for so many people all around the world – they are beautiful and so beneficial, but sometimes they really do make our lives a little more tough than they would be without them. For many of us, this is prevalent when we have an argument about a tree with our neighbors.

Falling leaves, diseased trees, and downed branches can cause us to argue with a neighbor that we have an otherwise good relationship with – and sometimes, it can even end good relationships. A good neighbor is important and extremely helpful, so you do not want to ruin that relationship if you can help it.

So we are here to help you answer some of the most common questions when it comes to homeownership, tree ownership, and just who is responsible for what when it comes to tree care.

4. Who Owns the Overhanging Tree?

overhanging tree
Credit: Cody Logan
  • In many areas, you can trim the overhanging tree
  • Whoever has the trunk owns the tree
  • Tree has to be trimmed responsibly

If there is a branch overhanging your yard, you might want to cut it before it can cause any problems for the structures on your property or before it falls and creates a mess. However, you might not have the right to do anything to it. In some counties, you have to check local ordinances to see if you have “air rights” for everything above your yard. If you can trim the tree, you can only go as far back as the property line.

If you have a tree that overhangs, it is best to tackle it before your neighbor can do it themselves.

According to Home Guides, “When a tree on your property hangs over the boundary line into another yard, you have a duty to address all weak or damaged branches. If a weak or damaged branch that you failed to remove or maintain falls into the adjoining yard and causes damage to structures, land, people or pets, you are legally responsible. On the other hand, you’re not responsible for the tree’s debris that falls into the yard next door, such as leaves, acorns, seeds and pods. The neighbor is always responsible for cleanup of the accumulation of those things.”

3. Who Can Eat the Fruit?

Credit: Fishhawk
  • You cannot pick the fruit off of a tree and just eat it
  • There is some debate over who owns fallen fruit
  • You can’t even pick fruit off trees above your property

This is an age-old question that goes back as far as we can tell – who owns the fruit on fruit trees? As children, many of us loved to grab the apples from our neighbor’s trees or pick the berries on a bush to use a pie. But was that legal? In almost all instances, the answer is no, it isn’t. According to NOLO, it is actually considered petty theft. There is also a question as to whether or not it is legal for someone to go onto your property to pick fruit off of their own greenery.

There is a legal gray area and that is as to whether or not fallen fruit on your property becomes your own – even if the tree isn’t yours. In some states, the fallen fruit is yours. In others, it is your neighbors. There is a caveat however: your neighbor cannot go onto your property to pick it up and it doesn’t belong to you. This is why it is so important to have good relationships.

2. Who Has to Clean Up the Leaves?

Credit: Morgan
  • Leaves have to be cleaned by the person who owns the property they fall on
  • Homeowners cannot dump leaves on someone else’s property
  • Tree owner has no claim to leaves or “nuisance”

Raking leaves isn’t something that anyone wants to do – raking them into a few piles and jumping in them is only fun for so long. But just who has to do that raking if leaves fall on two properties? The answer is usually both parties – the owner of the tree (the homeowner who has the tree’s trunk growing out of his or her property) has to clean up the leaves on their property and anyone else has to clean up the leaves that have spread. This is because, even if the leaves do fall straight down, leaves tend to spread and sometimes the real owner cannot be determined.

According to The Spruce, you do have a legal responsibility to rake your leaves – and an environmental one. The local government can step in and force you to eliminate the leaves in one way or another.

1. Who Has To Spray For Pests?

infested tree
Credit: Nicholas A. Tonneli
  • Owner of the tree has to take care of pests
  • Spraying may not be the best way to handle it
  • Contact a professional

If your neighbor is spraying some poisonous chemical into the air, you might try to talk them out of it or suggest a better alternative. This is because you know that the air and water can spread the chemicals through the air and ground, and it can end up in your yard and impacting your family. Your neighbor thinks the same thing about you.

But if there are pests on your trees and someone needs to do something, what can you do? The short answer is that your neighbor has to take care of his trees and you need to take care of your own. If the problem or infestation has spread and your neighbor doesn’t want to do anything, that is more difficult. Your best bet is to try to talk to your neighbor and come up with a solution for everyone. If the infestation is something that the local government knows about, you can get them involved as well, according to AVVO.

However, you cannot just go spraying your neighbor’s greenery. Instead, you can talk to a professional about taking care of your own problem and then preventing the infestation from recurring.

Contact Menchhofer Tree Care for all of your tree care needs – we can help you at any stage of the tree process, from planting and taking care of your tree to pruning and cutting it down – and of course, watering your trees. If you are having trouble making mulching decisions, we can also be there to help you with laying mulch, finding the right mulch for you, and even cleaning up if the mulch doesn’t work.

Call us today at 317-661-4240.

Header photo courtesy of lns1122 on Flickr!

Menchhofer Tree Care

About Steve Menchhofer

Steve Menchhofer has been caring for the trees of the Indianapolis, Indiana metro area for over 40 years. Steve and his team of experienced, certified arborists are members of the International Society of Arboriculture and the Indiana Arborist Association.

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