Neighbor hates a tree

37 Replies

I have a SFR where an older couple just bought the neighboring house. They've improved the look of the landscaping, but they approached my tenant about the leaves that drop from one of my trees.

It's a deciduous tree that sheds large leaves (size of a large hand), but they fall off en mass in the fall (it's dirty in the fall). Basically it's a northern style tree in FL. It's an oddball here.

My tenant did not give them my contact info, but the neighbors want to talk with me about it.

The tree is healthy, and survived recent hurricanes like a champ. So what legal ground do they have to make me do anything?   This is Florida BTW.

I have no idea what to expect from the conversation, but want to be prepared.

Also, no one likes this tree but me, but this has already got me thinking of cutting it down and replacing it with a red-leaf crepe myrtle that has caught my eye.

I unfortunately don't know what, if any, legal grounds there are regarding the tree, but you have a couple different avenues to explore.  If you're prepared to dig your heels in on the issue, your neighbor knew the tree existed prior to their purchase and now they are trying to change the rules of the game.  It's like knowing somebody's faults, marrying them and expecting them to change later.  It just doesn't work that way.

If, however, you are considering its removal, and your neighbors are coming in on the same page, I think it presents the perfect opportunity to get them to contribute to its associated costs.

They can not make you do a single thing.  They have the right to trim anything hanging over their property.  The only possible liability you can have from a tree is if it obviously damaged/unhealthy and part of it falls onto their property damaging something.  If the tree comes down in a hurricane, whatever falls on their side, and any resulting damage, is their responsibility, not yours.

If they don't like the tree, they should not have bought the house.

Leaves fall, that's how trees work, and gravity has been around since they were young (it's nothing new).

If it were mine I'd tell them they can get a leaf rake for under $20 on Amazon if they want their own property raked.

Wayne is right.  If you like the tree, keep it.  They can trim branches that overhang into their yard.  They bought the house knowing the tree was there.  

One of the neighbours at one of my rentals wanted me to cut down all of the trees, so they could get more sun on their deck. I said no.  I did take one down that was not healthy, but the tree guy said all of the others are in great shape and the tenants like the trees (as do I).

BTW I think the tree is a Tulip Poplar, but the bark looks nothing like the pics I found.

Also my tenant worries about things. Example: after the last hurricane the dirt around the tree had a 1/8" gap to the tree indicating the winds pushed it a bit. She worried it could fall into the house, so I had the top of the tree removed to reduce its bulk a year or two ago.

I would not even bother having a conversation. This is your tree, they have to deal with it.

I have a crazy amount of leaves in my yard from my neighbors tree that I have to cleanup each fall. Nothing I can do about it.

Everyone else has it right. They can trim anything that hangs over their property line. Beyond that they're out of luck. If it's a good sized tree (more than 20' tall) I wouldn't touch it unless *you* hate it or it's endangering your house (or the neighbor's), because it takes a long time to replace mature trees. You can usually work with trees if you think it through. 

Thanks for the replies, it fit my understanding in that they can cut branches in their yard but they're out of luck otherwise.

Honesty if they want to chip in to remove it I'm game. I have a nearby property with a dying oak I need removed too. Like I said no one else likes this tree, and I wouldn't want to cause tension with my tenant.

But, Scott, your post literally made me laugh out loud!

After the recent hurricanes I've come to have a healthy fear of tall trees. This one I had capped, but it will grow back.  Also it is planted maybe 20feet from my drainfield.

I also watch too much Fear Thy Neighbor on cable 😄

In situations like this I start doing the "what if" game so I like my "what if" idea, but I don't want to handle this in such a way that they begin an endless series of demands.

Originally posted by @Stephen Shelton :

Thanks for the replies, it fit my understanding in that they can cut branches in their yard but they're out of luck otherwise.

Honesty if they want to chip in to remove it I'm game. I have a nearby property with a dying oak I need removed too. Like I said no one else likes this tree, and I wouldn't want to cause tension with my tenant.

But, Scott, your post literally made me laugh out loud!

 Remember tenants change, so if you like it, then keep it.  My neighbour's tree drops most of its leaves in my yard (and gutters), but it also provides shade which I love in the summer.

I would be thinking solely on the premise of "how does the removal benefit me"?

If there is a reasonable chance it could damage my property in some way, then I would consider it. Anything can happen, so be careful on the "reasonable" part...

If its removal doesn't really benefit me in some reasonable way, then the neighbors are TSOL.....

The only reason to talk with them is if you want the tree  removed and think you can get them to assist in the cost. In addition it is good to maintain good relationships with your neighbors. 

It is your tree though and they can't really make you cut it down. 

From what i understand, they cant make you do anything as long a the tree is alive and stable.  The neighbor can cut low branches that hang over their property.

If it has you thinking about a new tree, maybe try..... "This tree was existing when you bought the house..C'mon Bob, don't tell me you didn't see it..LOL.  I wish i could remove it and plant a Japanese Maple tree but i'm in no position to do this.  I do want a tree there, I don't want to remove this tree and leave the space empty but i want be good neighbors/friends. If you want to remove this tree and replace it with a Japanese Maple and repair any soil/grass damage caused by the tree removal company that's fine as long as you pay for it..I wish i could help $$ but i cant".  

Some seriousness mixed with humor

Good luck...

LOL...this is comical. Truly unbelievable. 

Leaves...falling in to their yard....and they are pestering your tenant with this? I would HAVE to meet these people. I would go meet with them just for the heck of it. Of course I would also tell them to purchase a leaf zapping barrier because the tree was staying. 

@Stephen Shelton

I would probably cut the tree and make sure it never grows again.

Have you ever had to pay to trim the tree? Does it have a reoccurring cost?

Also, it sounded like you had some concerns about potential liabilities from hurricane. is it worth a lawsuit?

You can look at it from an economic point of view, risk vs reward or socially.

We probably need more trees not less.

Originally posted by @Anthony Rosa :

From what i understand, they cant make you do anything as long a the tree is alive and stable.  The neighbor can cut low branches that hang over their property.

If it has you thinking about a new tree, maybe try..... "This tree was existing when you bought the house..C'mon Bob, don't tell me you didn't see it..LOL.  I wish i could remove it and plant a Japanese Maple tree but i'm in no position to do this.  I do want a tree there, I don't want to remove this tree and leave the space empty but i want be good neighbors/friends. If you want to remove this tree and replace it with a Japanese Maple and repair any soil/grass damage caused by the tree removal company that's fine as long as you pay for it..I wish i could help $$ but i cant".  

Some seriousness mixed with humor

Good luck...

 LOL I can tell you're from the north! 😄 Japanese Maples hate the heat down here. I love the red threadleaf Japanese maples, so in 2003 when I drove to PA I bought a small one just to try here. They're slow growing trees, but in those 16 years it may have doubled in size.  Maybe. It won't die, looks healthy, but it just doesn't grow.  One winter I even dumped bags of ice around the trunk during cold snaps to help simulate winter.


I know the tree species really wasn't your point, but I had to share.

Originally posted by @Matthew Paul :

Does the tree provide shade on the house?  It will increase the cooling costs for the tenant 

 Not really mainly because of it's location and it's a kind of spindly tree. I also had a lot of the height removed to make it less of a hurricane threat, even tough at its highest height it wasn't much of a threat anyway.

Originally posted by @Dee Shaun :

@Stephen Shelton

I would probably cut the tree and make sure it never grows again.

Have you ever had to pay to trim the tree? Does it have a reoccurring cost?

Also, it sounded like you had some concerns about potential liabilities from hurricane. is it worth a lawsuit?

You can look at it from an economic point of view, risk vs reward or socially.

We probably need more trees not less.

 Its location was barely a threat to the house even if it fell in the worst possible way, but my tenant worries about things.  She's a great tenant and I was having some other trees removed anyway so I had them cut off the top.

It's even less of a threat to the neighbor's house, but the tree seems to shed small branches that fall in my yard.

As crazy as people are anymore who knows? They could park on the side of their yard and put a branch on their car and say I damaged it. Who knows.

Removing the tree:

* Eliminates risk in a storm

* Eliminates potential issue of roots damaging the drain field (though this would have been an issue decades ago)

* Eliminates maintenance trims

Also good terms with the neighbors means they'll likely allow me access to their backyard when I need to stain/seal the fence, and our yards have a line of railroad ties at the boundary, mine from the previous owner. I want to remove them and have a load of topsoil dumped so I can just make a smooth decline with no barrier. It will be easier to do this if the neighbors are friendly.

@Stephen Shelton Tell them they can trim back the branches that are encroaching on their side if they want and that you will consider moving it but have not made a final decision as of yet. 

Good look by your tenants not giving out your contact info to them. 9 out of 10 tenants would have given this info up without hesitation.

@Stephen Shelton - they can trim the branches crossing over their property line... as long it doesn't affect the health of the tree. If they go crazy on it (maybe because more of the tree is over their property) and they cut it too much the tree can die (heck, if you are not careful in the trimming process and seal the cuts, it can also get infected/infested, end result same, dead tree later) or worse, become unbalanced and prone to crashing on your property or his - so make them aware of that.

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