Can I cut some branches from my neighbour’s hedge or tree if they are hanging over my garden?
Dear Hedge Trimmer,
When you live close to your neighbours, hedges and trees are a nice screen and help maintain privacy.
Over time, however, you may decide to cut your side of the hedge and that can create a tricky situation with the neighbours if they prefer things the way they are; it can become even more complicated than that.
You are entitled to cut any branches or roots that cross over the property boundary onto your land. You can also trim parts of your neighbour’s tree that may hang over your property line.
However, the branches and roots still technically belong to your neighbour, so you should speak to them first to see if they would prefer to trim it themselves or if they want to keep the branches.
You cannot go on the tree owner’s property without their permission, unless a branch poses immediate potential harm. You may be liable for costs if you cause the structural integrity of the tree to be harmed.
You should also check that that particular tree is not subject to a preservation order with the Department of Agriculture.
Bear in mind that you are responsible for maintaining any trees growing on your own property.
Regular tree and hedge maintenance is the best way to avoid problems. Trees that do not receive regular pruning may become weak, and are more vulnerable to high winds and other extreme weather events.
Removing dead or diseased limbs seasonally is beneficial; high winds can rip trees out of the ground.
Because this is considered an act of God (not something controlled by humans) tree owners are not responsible for damage caused to neighbouring properties unless it has previously been noted that the tree is unsafe and requests to correct the problem ignored by the applicable parties.
A fallen tree in your yard, whether it is yours or not, is your responsibility to remove; your neighbour may be willing to help out.
If you are on friendly terms it may be possible to split the cost of having a downed tree removed, however if you and your neighbour are on poor terms it may be difficult.
If a tree from your neighbour’s yard damages your home or garage, your homeowner’s insurance will generally pay for the structural repairs.
If the tree damages your car, your comprehensive coverage should pay for repairs.
The growth habit of trees can create complications between neighbours.
The canopy of a tree may extend over the adjacent lot and if a young tree is planted near the boundary, the trunk may grow large enough to cross the property line.
A tree usually belongs to the property where its trunk stands however when the tree trunk overlaps the property line, it can become unclear who owns it.
Maintenance of a boundary tree is up to the affected property owner, but both owners must agree to any work that affects the whole tree.
The owner of the tree, or part thereof, has a legal responsibility to prevent it from causing harm to any other property.
That may include cutting back branches or roots if they have the potential to cause injury or damage or if the tree is shown to have harmed the adjacent property. If a tree or tree limb falls and damages the property, the tree owner may be liable for damages if it can be proved that the damage was caused due to the owner’s neglect of the tree’s maintenance.
Hedge and boundary issues can be very emotive and in all cases, communication with your neighbour is important and can help alleviate contentious situations.
Matthew Kelly of Chancery Law and Andrew Hanwell of BF&M contributed to this column
Heather Chilvers is among Coldwell Banker Bermuda Realty’s leading sales representatives. She has been working in real estate for nearly 30 years. If you have a question for Heather, please contact her at email@example.com or 332-1793. All questions will be treated in confidence. Read this article on Facebook: Ask Heather Real Estate