Property Line, trees and tree roots

About 30 years ago I planted several pine trees on my property line. There was an empty lot next door. Ten years later the lot is purchased and a home built.
I received a letter from the neighbor a fews days ago, demanding that I remove all three trees, stumps, pine cones and straw, or he will do it and file a lawsuit against me.
All three trees have grown to such an extent that they straddle both sides of our property.
From everything that I have studied to date, he can trim the branches on his side of the property line to (almost) his hearts delight, but not cut down or damage them.
He also wants me to remove all the “trespassing” tree roots on his property such that he will not ding his lawnmower blades.
Looking for your comments.

I can’t offer much advice; but if your neighbor’s first communication with you on this matter involves a threat of legal action I must say he is indeed an asshole and you have a problem.

Go to or call the county office and ask a lot of questions. I’m sure they’ll have answers for you. Then you’ll have an idea, at least, if you might need to get a lawyer. Good Luck!


Question quite independent of the legal issue - were the trees there when he bought the property?

My grandfather was a realtor in a small town adjacent to an international airport. When showing a house he would stand with the clients in the front yard, face them north and say, “There is the airport. If you don’t want to live next to it don’t buy this house.”

Since the OP involves opinions and this is a real-life legal issue, let’s go over to IMHO rather than General Questions. Moved.

samclem, moderator.

Realtors who sell property near farms should do this. (And I suspect many of them do, and are not listened to.)

Here is a thread I started on a similar question, with some useful suggestions.

I think you need to talk to a lawyer but I believe you would be justified in suing him for cutting down your trees if he does indeed do that. The trees are at least partly on your property and it’s probably obvious from a visual inspection that they originated there. So I seriously doubt he has any right to destroy your property. It’s a little like being expected to rake the leaves from your trees that blow into his yard. It basically falls under the rubric of ‘too f***ing bad, deal with it.’

I had a similar problem once with fruit trees on a neighbor’s land. The fruit would fall and ferment attracting bees and other insects. I contacted someone in the town government. Don’t remember if it was the police, code enforcement or what but they told me that I couldn’t do anything about it unless it became a health and safety issue, or something along those lines. I never consulted a lawyer about it so I don’t know if that was accurate or not but clearly they weren’t going to support my cause if I started cutting those trees down.

I should add that for roots and branches that are on his property are his responsibility, and he can remove them, up to the property line. If he is going to be doing major cutting, he should talk with you first. Should. Twigs and pine-cones and needles on his property are also his problem and not yours to clean-up.

I think the problematic area is where you say the trees straddle the property line. You may need to have someone come out from the city/municipality and determine the facts there (whose property are they on?), as I imagine that will have bearing on all actions to come.

The appropriate legal response is ‘go pound sand’


Indeed they do. In my county if you sell properties near agricultural land (dairies, farms, etc.) there is an “Agricultural Rider” required to the required Disclosure Form that specifically warns potential buyers that the property is agricultural. Something along the lines of “If you don’t like the smell of cattle, manure, growing things, tractor noise, people doing Ag stuff, don’t buy this property.”

Has this neighbor lived there for 20 years? Why are the trees a problem now?

Legally, can he cut the roots at the property line? Let’s say he had some work done that trenched along the property line which severed the roots. That might cause the tree to suffer or die completely. Is he allowed to do that? All discussions I’ve heard are more about trimming branches.

Nothing is more fun than property line disputes. :dubious:

In the OP’s shoes I suppose my first step would be to determine local law on the matter and see if I could work with Mr. Confrontational Neighbor.

If not, I’d get a lawyer to send him a letter explaining the rights and responsibilities of both parties, and nicely warning of the consequences of unilateral illegal action.

Every bit of this is good advice. Don’t wait; get LEO and a lawyer involved now. Start the paper and evidentiary trail.

I recently watched a series of videos detailing a dispute about a hedge that were only mildly entertaining, but were a good example of someone documenting their dispute. Ultimately (if you care to watch more of her videos), you’ll see that she prevails in court and wins a judgement against her neighbor even tho he was the one who sued her.

Contact the city and see what the local laws say. Talk to a lawyer so you’re prepared. If possible, start recording. Security cameras are cheap now. The lady in the linked video even wears a body cam (or her phone in a harness) to document things, and we’re not talking about million dollar properties involved here.

Yes, someone who starts off with lawsuit threats is probably not above pouring some sort of plant-killer into your soil. Try proving he did it a few weeks after when all the trees are dead… Video, video, video… Set up a camera.

tell them you will let the roots ding your mower, volunteer to mow it.

Is that the only reason they want them removed? Trees are a nice thing, nice shade