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Neighbor Trespassed on Property and Cut Tree Limb
Old 08-27-2012, 12:56 PM   #1
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Neighbor Trespassed on Property and Cut Tree Limb

Neighbor Trespassed on Property and Cut Tree Limb

My next door neighbor trespassed onto my property and cut a major branch off one of my trees at the trunk. The branch was healthy. This was done without my permission or consent. As you can see from the photos,
the tree was clearly cut on my front lawn, to cut the tree at the trunk, they would have to be on my property. This was not a slight "trim"
by any means. This healthy branch primarily extended out in to the street
where it was intended to disguise the overhead wires. The electric company
comes out once a year to trim branches and this branch was appropriately trimmed by them if necessary.


I am thinking that a cease a desist letter may be an appropriate course of action, and I am exploring that possibility now. I want to be a good neighbor, but I simply can't ignore acts of trespass without consent that are completely lacking in civility and a lack of reasonable respect.


I live next door these people and try to get along, but I won't have my rights violated in the interim.


My questions:


1. Is the way the tree was cut likely to cause irrepairable harm to the tree?


2. What action do you think I should take? a.) nothing b.) have lawyer send cease and desist letter or c.) file a civil complaint for trespass and seek compensatory damages (I could handle a civil complaint on my own, so it would not cost me too much time or money).


Thank you for your insight.


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Old 08-27-2012, 01:00 PM   #2
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1 - are positive the neighbor did it ?
2 - did you ask them why they did it ?
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Old 08-27-2012, 01:01 PM   #3
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The very first thing to do is ask your neighbor why the tree was cut. That will give you a handle on what to do next.
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Old 08-27-2012, 01:02 PM   #4
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I'm not sure what this has to do with FIRE and Money, but I'll bite.

Was the branch overhanging their driveway, or the sidewalk, in a way that cars or people were effected?

I had a neighbor trim some low hanging branches that would scratch the roof of their mini-van if they parked on the (public) street in front of my house. I was ok with that. But they warned me first. I was unaware of the issue because I had a shorter car, and usually parked in my driveway, not on the street.

It does seem the neighbor should have approached you first, and discussed the issue.

First step would be to talk to the neighbor, in a non-confrontational manner, and ask why they felt the need to cut the branch.
Starting with a cease and desist is not a good way to build neighborhood peace and should be a last resort.
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Old 08-27-2012, 01:10 PM   #5
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Did the tree limb encroach on the air space over his land?

If so, he would be entitled to cut the branch on the property line but should not have trespassed onto your land to do it. If not, then he had no business touching your tree (even if the branch encroached onto the street).

I had a similar situation with a neighbor's maple tree where the tree is on her property (about a foot or so over our property line) but the limbs of the tree encroached onto our property and worse yet, hung over the (new) roof of our house.

I explained to her that I did not want any branches overhanging my roof and potentially ruining my new roof. I further explained to her that it would be best for the tree to cut the offending limbs near the trunk rather than at the property line.

She fussed about it a bit and I explained to her that I was just trying to be a good neighbor and work something out that we could both be happy with but if she refused to cooperate that I was within my rights to cut the limbs on the property line wherever they encroached on my property but I didn't want to do that since it would make her tree look strange and would not be good for the tree (which is not in the best of shape to begin with).

In any event, she eventually conceded to us jointly deciding which limbs would be cut and where and all worked out well and there are limbs that are over my property, which I am fine with, but none over my roof.

Either your neighbor doesn't know that they can't trespass onto your property and cut limbs on your tree and they need to be educated or they know and don't care in which case more stern measures would be warranted.

From the pic you sent it seems to me that it will not harm the tree.

Do they intend to pick up the mess? Is the mess on your property or theirs?
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Old 08-27-2012, 01:13 PM   #6
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Did you see them cutting it so you're sure it was the neighbor and not your city?

If it hung over their property at all I believe they do have the right to trim the tree. If you didn't see it, maybe they hired a tree service with a crane so they didn't go on your property. Or if there's a public easement near the street (we have one at the front and at the back of our yard) maybe technically it's not trespassing if the neighbor did it himself.

I would call your city and just ask them about it before proceeding.
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Old 08-27-2012, 01:25 PM   #7
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How close to the trunk is that cut? I've always heard that you should cut out a couple inches, leaving a bit of limb sticking out, that can wither and die on its own, and it's healthier for the tree than cutting right where it comes off the trunk. Anyway, you might want to get some non-toxic paint, and paint over the exposed area, because it's now vulnerable to disease, pests, etc.

One other question...where, exactly, is the property line in your neighborhood? I notice there are no sidewalks. Often in neighborhoods like that, the right-of-way extends back from the pavement about 10-15 feet or so, to allow for future sidewalk construction.
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Old 08-27-2012, 01:31 PM   #8
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I think there's a good possibility it was the power company. There was some major trimming that went on in my neighborhood about 2 years ago. It seemed a little extreme at the time but I'm glad it happened given Isaac's approach.
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Old 08-27-2012, 01:31 PM   #9
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The law may vary from place to place but the usual ordinances allow neighbors to cut limbs that are hanging over across the property line and onto their own property, but no farther down the limb than would take it past their own property line. Taking it upon yourself to cut an "offending" limb all the way down, including over property not your own, is a violation.

Normally I'd suggest calling the power company to see if they did it but this is not how they usually trim trees around power lines.
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Old 08-27-2012, 01:33 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Live And Learn View Post
1 - are positive the neighbor did it ?
2 - did you ask them why they did it ?
Quote:
Originally Posted by braumeister View Post
The very first thing to do is ask your neighbor why the tree was cut. That will give you a handle on what to do next.
+1. If they did it without ever mentioning their intent at any time, they're out of line. But that doesn't mean you should do the same. Why wouldn't you start by giving them the benefit of the doubt, and talking to them? I can't imagine they did it (if it was them) for no reason...
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Old 08-27-2012, 02:00 PM   #11
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Hello:

Yes. I spoke to the neighbor about it yesterday. I explained why I was so upset. He offered no explanation for his action. When I asked why he didn't talk to me first, or ask permission, he said he works five days a week and I was not home when he decided to do this. I told him that I was home most of the weekend and this is an action important enough to warrant a conversation before proceeding. I told him that I was considering my legal recourse.

The tree branch grew exclusively, or at least primarily, out in the direction off the street. I can understand a pruning if the branch hung over onto their property. The branch remains were located on their property.
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Old 08-27-2012, 02:04 PM   #12
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A few thoughts.....

If this was the only offending branch, then a cease and desist is meaningless... they do not have to go on your property again...

The other problem is proving damages... IOW, how much damage did they do? They did not cut down the whole tree, so you can not have them replace what you had (even if it could be done)...


I remember reading about some Hollywood superstar that had tried for year to get a neighbor to cut done some BIG trees that was blocking his or her view.... to no avail... one day, the trees were cut down.... they were taken to court and lost and paid some big money (not for them, mind you) for doing it.... they did not care... they got their view and the homeowner had no way of getting the size tree that had been cut....
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Old 08-27-2012, 02:09 PM   #13
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I am positive the neighbor did it- the adult son admitted to doing it.
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Old 08-27-2012, 02:16 PM   #14
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Seems like you have to ask yourself how important this is, and whether it's worth being on bad terms with your neighbor. You could probably get something for a civil suit, but is it worth the ill will?

Cease & desist sends the message that you are unhappy with what they did and makes it clear they better not do something like that again (and gives you even more grounds for a suit if they do something again). It could still go either way. The neighbor might be resentful for whatever his reasons are, invalid as they may be, or he might realize he screwed up and be apologetic and find another way to make up for it.
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Old 08-27-2012, 02:18 PM   #15
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Yes. I spoke to the neighbor about it yesterday. I explained why I was so upset. He offered no explanation for his action.
Did you even ask why he did it?

There is so much missing background information here that asking for advice seems pointless. What you've got here is a failure to communicate.
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Old 08-27-2012, 02:18 PM   #16
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It's a bummer he didn't talk to you but sometimes I operate by the sayings, "if you can't stand the answer, don't ask the question" and "sometimes it's better to ask for forgiveness, than ask for permission."

Would the situation be worse or better if he had asked your permission, you had said "no" and he had done it anyway? If he had decided the limb was coming down come hell or high water, I can understand his strategy.

It looks like he cleaned up his mess and put it by the curb to be hauled away.
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Old 08-27-2012, 02:22 PM   #17
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"Legal recourse" is not worth it. Lawyers are expensive (takes one to know one) and these type of neighborhood disputes have a way of getting out of hand. Do you really want to spend thousands of dollars to have some judge tell your neighbor he shouldn't have cut the tree? You won't get reimbursed for your legal fees and the damages you might recover, if any, would be miniscule compared to what it would cost you.

I would politely tell the neighbor that you are unhappy with what he did, that you hope it was just a one time mistake, and get on with your life.
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Old 08-27-2012, 02:34 PM   #18
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How close to the trunk is that cut? I've always heard that you should cut out a couple inches, leaving a bit of limb sticking out, that can wither and die on its own, and it's healthier for the tree than cutting right where it comes off the trunk. Anyway, you might want to get some non-toxic paint, and paint over the exposed area, because it's now vulnerable to disease, pests, etc.(snip)
What is that dark area in the center of the cut-off branch? Is it just heart-wood that's a different color from the outer layers of the branch, or was the limb possibly diseased and rotting in the center? That wouldn't justify your neighbor trespassing and trimming the tree without your permission, but if the tree is sick already I will guess it would be hard to succeed with a damage claim for any significant amount of money.

ISTM that consultation with a qualified arborist is in order, to see whether the trimming has left the tree vulnerable to infection and/or insects. If you feel strongly enough about the issue, you could take your neighbor to small claims court for the amount of the arborist's bill for the evaluation and any remedial treatment needed to prevent further harm to the tree. Unless the tree later dies as a result of disease contracted because of the trimming (which would be very difficult to prove) I doubt that you could prove a claim that the trimming of the tree decreased your property value.
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Old 08-27-2012, 02:38 PM   #19
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I was so angry last night, that when he approached and I spoke to him, I did not ask him why he did what he did. I can't fathom a reasonable basis for his actions and he did not offer one. During our interaction, if he had a basis for doing what he did, he could have expressed it.

I believe the tree branch was high enough to not interfere with a car parked in the street. The adult son parks his work minivan out on the street there. If there was a STRONG wind storm I think I would see him park the minivan across the street. But the branch was strong and healthy and trimmed as necessary by the electric company. They have two non-operating vehicles parked in their driveway, one is up on ramps.

Braumeister- it seems liked he owed an explanation to me, and he did not provide it. Why is the onus in me to determine why he did what he did, after the damage is done. There clearly was a failure to communicate, but I place this failure on the neighbor- not on me. I try and stay out of other people's business, but I just feel like in this situation, they clearly crossed a line.
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Old 08-27-2012, 02:38 PM   #20
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I suppose you could write a 5 foot high swear word in his lawn with bleach in the middle of the night...
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