Neighbor wants me to remove tree with branches falling in her yard

28 Replies

Hello BP,

I have a rental property with a lot of large trees.  On one side, some of these trees are hanging lower and drops small branches into the neighbors yard.  She has been complaining about the constant cleanup of these small branches and wants me to either remove the trees or cut them back.  I live in Michigan and do not know my liability.  The trees provide a lot of shade to my yard and her yard.  Paying money to cut back perfectly healthy trees seems like a waste.

Has anyone come across this issue with a neighbor and what would be the best course of action. 

I am leaning toward paying a company to cut the trees back to avoid any more conflict.



That would be the path of least resistance to cut them and make the neighbor happy.

You could also approach the neighbor and see if you can get them to pay half as I dont think you have to cut them but if any of the branches hang over the property line they can cut them without your approval.  

I can't give legal advice but cutting back on your trees encroaching onto her property makes sense.

It's kind of like water runoff issues as well where the neighbor is dealing with issues coming from your yard for example etc.

You get a benefit from these trees but they get a headache in the cleanup. It doesn't sound like they are being unreasonable. 

Regular pruning of the trees would probably be the best compromise.  You wouldn't have to cut down your trees, but the steady maintenance cost can be a factor.  Also, it helps to prevent/reduce branches from falling on your neighbors yard.  

Best of Luck!

Everyone is so nice here.

I have told my neighbors if they want the trees trimmed they can trim them to the property line but not to trespass onto my property (cross the property line to trim).

I've spent so much on trees this year, I'm ready to cut them all down if it didn't cost so much. I like trees but they are not cheap.

You will never make some neighbors happy. They will always find something to complain about. If you own enough property you will eventually have one next to someone like this. Your neighbor complaining about small branches sounds like one of those.

You could offer to buy their house at a discount so they wouldn't have to live next to your trees.

I hate trees in the yards.  They are fine in the forest, but I hate them in my yards.  Argggggg!

@Jon W.    It’s your responsibility, as a property owner, to maintain your property in such a manner that you do not interfere with your neighbor’s use and enjoyment of his property.

As @Lydia Ford  suggested “regular pruning of the trees would probably be the best compromise.” I suggest that you personally meet with your neighbor and discuss the matter. Then quickly take corrective action. You will gain a friend and help establish your reputation as a good and responsible landlord.

Cut the trees and save from being sued.

Joe Gore

@Jon W.  Do you like the neighbor? Just kidding, promote a sense of positive neighborhood vibes and trim the trees!

Paying to cut trees rarely makes sense to someone not dealing with the repeated mess in the yard.  I have a 1/2 acre property with numerous trees (mostly mine) bordering the yard.  I can't cut my grass without walking around the yard (mostly hill) to pick up limbs.  The leaves in the fall are another headache.

If I could get my wife on board, I would pay to have every single tree removed from my property.  I have also considered talking to my neighbor about his tree.  Unlike the ones on your property, his is far from healthy and a danger to both of our houses.

Originally posted by @Bill S.:

You could offer to buy their house at a discount so they wouldn't have to live next to your trees.


I agree there is no pleasing some people and would trim them as well.  I don't have any properties yet, but will keep this post in mind when searching for properties to minimize having to deal with this issue.

I think cutting them back is a good compromise, but if they want them down I would make them pay and get something in writing. Since it sounds like you want the trees though, trimming seems best. 

I just talked to a tree service I have used in the past.  They went to go look at the problem and said, since they are large mature trees, sending someone up to cut back to the fence line would cost up to $1000.  But did not recommend doing that to perfectly healthy trees.

I decided to have them do some elevation trimming for $100 (basically what they can cut back while standing on the ground with a pole) and she can cut back more if she wants.

Thanks for all of the input.  I will reply back with the neighbors reaction.

@Jon W.  When a neighbor asked me to cut one of my trees, my answer was, "uh, no".

I would remove them although what hangs in their yard is considered theirs in Chicago.

I won a case where the neighbors tree fell into my yard and damaged my rear door and gutter. Although they said I was responsible for what was hanging in my yard regardless of where the tree grew from. Its the fact that more than that which was hanging fell onto my property they had to pay.

I'm not a fan of trees on my property and the same neighbor has a dead tree that will fall my way (not on the house but possibly my garage). From what they paid before it would be wise for them to remove it, but once I have a few other things done I will have what's hanging across my property line cut if they like it  or not.

If your tree limbs are hanging over in someone's else yard you need to take care of the problem if you don't make sure you have insurance if the branches fall on someone. Be a good landlord and do the right thing.

Joe Gore

Have them trimmed, or they are entirely within their rights to hack them back to the property line.  Which will look like crap.

The reason to compromise and work the neighbor is so she doesn't take a chain saw and do hack job on her side, which she is entitled to do. As long as you don't care what the neighbor does to the tree on her side, you can do nothing, or do the minimum trim as suggested by your tree guy. 

There are six full grown orange trees planted on my neighbor's fence line, overhanging into my yard.  I trim them back to the property line on my side so sunlight can get to my garden.  I know the neighbor hates it when I trim it on my side.  They don't trim them at all on their side and there are huge branches fully resting on electric and cable wires, just ready to snap.  Obviously their tolerance is different from mine.  So we each do our own thing.  

If you don't care if she butchers the shape of the tree, I'd let her know she is free to prune to the property line. 

@Timothy Riley  

I had a similar experience but never thought to go after the neighbor for it.  The limb knocked out the bottom section of my patio enclosure screen door as well as some of the window screens.  There is no doubt that the limb broke on their side of the property line.  I get branches from that tree every time it storms.  Next time it causes damage I will know to consult an attorney rather than filing a claim with my insurance company.

The neighbor is responsible for the branches that hang in their yard.  

You can't stop them from trimming those branches in their own yard.    

I don't think you are under any obligation to trim branches over a neighboring property though as others have said, that might be the path of least resistance.  

I like trees and there are some places  I  have lived where I am sure my neighbors didn't or don't like them and consequently me. Neighbors are probably especially unhappy when I don't manicure the trees but I haven't had complaints since they mostly have not liked the leaves.  If I were you I  would do the minor trimming in good faith and certainly trim back dead branches.  I have had power company trims on some properties that are similar to the kind of property line cut you are talking about and they can kill the tree. Your neighbor is entitled to cut to her property line at her expense if she wants but I wouldn't do if for her at the risk of killing your own trees.  Keep in mind though even some types of healthy trees like oaks will drop small branches so trimming won't eliminate this. As for cutting them down if you have a nice shaded yard keep it probably has some good energy benefits. Why pay money to create less value.

Wow. You received some good advice and some horrible advice. In Michigan, you're not responsible for anything that happens with your trees. If your neighbor wants the trees trimmed, she can trim them up to the property line. 

A couple years ago, I had a tree from my yard fall on the neighbors garage. Not my problem. I called my insurance guy and he said that I had no responsibility to repair the neighbors's garage. That's what his insurance is for. I had the tree removed from my yard and his just to be nice, but I wasn't legally responsible to do so. 

If you want to be a nice guy and trim this tree, you can do so. You're under no legal or moral obligation to trim this tree. 

@Rob K, I think this is the first time I have ever disagreed w/ one of your posts.  While it might not be a legal requirement, I do believe it is a moral obligation to trim back the tree in your yard.  I typically stay away from or remove immediately trees within 15 feet of the house just because of all the issues the cause.

@Rob K.  

won a case for a neighbor's tree causing damage to his property.

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