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Real estate Q&A: Do I have to remove leaves off neighbor's tree from my yard?

Gary M. Singer, South Florida Sun Sentinel on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Q: My neighbor has a large mango tree in her yard along the fence that separates our property. I keep the branches of the tree that come over the fence on my side pruned, and she has agreed to do this. However, the wind blows the leaves from the tree on her side of the fence into my pool on windy days. I spoke to her about this, and she replied, “They have to fall somewhere.” This is an answer, but not a satisfactory one. Do I have any recourse, or must I tolerate the situation? — Paul

A: A tree sitting near a property line presents certain challenges. When a tree is on your neighbor’s property, but its limbs or roots extend onto your property, you have the right to trim them back to the property line, as long as you don’t harm the tree’s overall health.

While it is good that you and your neighbor worked this out between you, you already had this right and responsibility. It’s important to note that if your neighbor’s tree is healthy and a branch breaks off in a storm, you cannot hold your neighbor responsible, even if it damages your property.

Conversely, if the tree is unhealthy and damages your property, your neighbor will be held responsible for the damage it causes.

Like trimming the branches, cleaning up the fallen leaves is up to each owner on their side of the line.

 

Many years ago, the courts worked out rules for how each neighbor should maintain their property in a way that does not harm others while balancing each’s right to use their property as they saw fit, deciding that “a possessor of land is not liable to persons outside the land for a nuisance resulting from trees and natural vegetation growing on the land.”

The courts reasoned that it is better to allow individuals to protect themselves if they are harmed by someone else using their property reasonably than subjecting the other person to annoying and burdensome legal actions, which could be numerous and often unnecessary.

This reasoning is sound when viewing society as a whole, although it is understandably frustrating in certain situations like yours.


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