Can I trim my neighbor’s tree? Ask the lawyer – San Bernardino Sun

Q: Our neighbor has a tall tree. Each year, branches grow above the wall, spread over a part of our yard and drop a lot of debris. Can I trim it or require him to do so?

H.M., Hawthorne

Ron Sokol

A: If you trim your neighbor’s tree, there is at least a potential risk that some portion of what you do is deemed wrongful cutting, even if by mistake. There are damage claims that can be made against you in that regard.

In addition, if you go onto the neighbor’s property without permission, you might wind up with a claim against you for trespassing. Bottom line, it is prudent to first notify your neighbor in writing about the problematic branches and ask him to trim the tree by such-and-such date. If he will not, or does not, my thought is to notify him further in writing that you are going to carefully trim it on your side; let him know when (date and time). Should you have someone who is skilled at tree trimming, who can do it on your behalf, even better. But there is no “fool proof” way to address a situation of this kind. If you have particular concerns about the neighbor, then your most prudent choice could well be to have a lawyer handle the situation.

Also note that research shows the California Department of Fish and Wildlife recommends against trimming trees during bird nesting season, which for many — but not all — birds runs from February to August. Some cities, including Long Beach, bans tree trimming during nesting season altogether.

Q: Who has responsibility to deal with a tree whose roots are causing problems for others?

D.H., Pasadena

A: Pursuant to California Civil Code Section 833, if the trunk of a tree stands wholly on the land of a particular property owner, that person owns the tree and has responsibility for it. This applies whether or not the tree’s foliage, roots or branches have extended onto the land of someone else.

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