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When your neighbor's tree causes damage

Trees are among the more majestic parts of nature. Providing shade and beauty, trees are often an integral part of landscaping, on both commercial property and private residences. Austin and other areas of Texas continue to debate ordinances protecting trees. Property owners who are unfamiliar with the tree regulations may find themselves in trouble with local officials who work to protect trees of certain sizes and species.

However, what happens when a neighbor's tree is a danger or nuisance to you and your property? You may have repeatedly asked your neighbor to prune or even remove a troublesome tree, but your neighbor has not complied. Regardless of tree protection ordinances, you do have certain rights when your neighbor's tree causes or threatens to cause damage to your property.

Your rights to protect your property

When storms blow through Austin, tree limbs sometimes fall. Even trees that a property owner carefully maintains may lose a branch or two if the wind is especially violent. When this happens, the owner of the property where the tree grows may not be liable for any damage a fallen branch may cause on your property. Property owners who are negligent about caring for their trees may face disputes in civil courts. Some reasons for a tree dispute with your neighbor may include the following:

  • You have warned your neighbor that his or her tree is posing a danger to you or your property.
  • A limb from your neighbor's poorly maintained tree falls into your property causing damage.
  • The roots of your neighbor's tree are causing your fence to uproot or shift.
  • Your neighbor's tree sheds its leaves, nuts, pods or other debris on your property.

Although there is probably nothing the courts will do for leaves and pods on your property, you may be able to obtain compensation for damage caused by your neighbor's tree landing on your house, fence, porch or outbuildings. Additionally, if limbs from your neighbor's tree are encroaching onto your side of the property line, you have the right to trim them, but first you must give the property owner warning to allow him or her a chance to do the pruning first.

You may trim no farther than the property line while being careful not to damage the tree or destroy its shape or symmetry. Of course, you may not remove your neighbor's tree, no matter how many leaves it drops on your lawn. Before beginning any pruning or trimming of your neighbor's tree, you would benefit from a thorough understanding of local ordinances regarding trees and property line disputes.

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