Comment of the Day: Who Owns the Tree

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHO OWNS THE TREE “The location of the tree trunk does not determine ownership of a tree. If a neighbor’s tree hangs over your property, the portion of the tree that is contained within your property boundary belongs to you. You can do with it as you please. The same rule applies to a tree that hangs over the street. The City may do with it as it pleases.” [Bernard, commenting on Big Oak Tree in Little East Montrose Park Branches Out]

15 Comment

  • Bernard,

    You are talking some common sense there. Not the domain of most irrational posters that don’t get their way.

  • Wrong. You have a right to trim the branches because the encroachment of the tree is considered a trespass on your property. The portion of the tree does not become your property. You cannot harvest fruit or nuts that overhang your property (although fallen fruit maybe a different issue and I am willing to assume the risk for snatching the tasty pecans in the right of way across the street from me). Also, while there is no case law on point, the general consensus is that you cannot trim to the point of killing the tree. That is based on a case where someone injected poison into roots on their property. The poison migrated back over the property line and killed the tree. That was considered a trespass. So, the consensus is that excessive trimming that kills a tree would be analogous to introducing poison.

  • I have to disagree.
    Sure if a branch comes into you’re yard you’re free to cut it. But where the trunk is still dictates who owns the tree. Meaning they can dig it out or chop to down (effecting your part) where you could not.

  • Old School: Interesting. I didn’t know you couldn’t pick fruit that were on branches on your side.
    I’m not disagreeing that’s the case, but why would that be? If you can’t pick them, who can? You don’t have to give the tree owner (sorry bernard ;) access to your yard to get the fruit. So you have to wait for it to fall or rot off?

  • While true, if you butcher the section of the tree right at the property line, that can kill it. The owner of the tree should keep it properly pruned however so that it does not interfere with with city or adjacent properties. Not doing so risks an adverse neighbor exercising his rights to eliminate the nuisance.

  • I can just imagine the police complaint around unathorized fruit picking. It’s head smackingly unecessary except when observed through the lens of common law trial lawyers. Then it becomes a foundation of property rights…somehow.

  • kjb434, what are you talking about? Which are the “irrational posters that don’t get their way?” What does that even mean?

  • Well the city and Center Point may do what it pleases” with a tree. As quite a few found out in Westmoreland Place when Center Point decided to “trim.” Very odd looking oak trees at this point. At some point some may start tilting to the left so to speak since the left is all that’s left. Most people actually would love some of these “overhangs” given the amount of shade, not to mention aesthetics, they provide. But, well, the city and Center Point always hires the low bidders who don’t know how to trim a tree. And believe chopping away is the proper way.

  • My neighbor (a renthouse with great tennents) has a dead pine tree, a casualty of last summer, just on the other side of the property line. I really don’t want it falling on my house. Do I have to get the owner of the property to take it down?

  • I agree with mel.

  • Bernard’s reply was to my original question. (I don’t think I’m being irrational). I think Old School is correct though. Anybody have any references? I think I remember reading something about this in the legal advice column in the Chronicle…

  • Cody: It is really a rule of commercial agriculture. Commercial growers will plant up to their property lines and should not have their trees plucked by the farm next door As for plucking a few grapefruits off your neighbor’s tree, if your neighbor calls the police or takes you to small claims court, your neighbor is legally a dickhead.

  • @#9,

    Same thing happened in my ‘hood. If the tree is indeed already dead, yes, it is the property owner’s (where the tree stands) responsibility to have it removed.

    He’d probably love for you to pay for it though. We paid about $500-$600, can’t remember, to have one removed after Ike.

  • @Old School:
    “As for plucking a few grapefruits off your neighbor’s tree, if your neighbor calls the police or takes you to small claims court, your neighbor is legally a dickhead.”

    Finally, something we can agree on.

  • Color me ignorant then. While you may not technically “own” the branches that overhang your property, you certainly have the right to cut the branches back to the property line and have them hauled off to the compost pile.

    That may not actually count as ownership, but it’s close enough for this type of discussion.