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My Neighbors’ Tree Roots Are in My Yard, Can I Remove Them? (Laws Explained)

gardener pulling out tree roots with spade

Sharing property lines with neighbors can be a challenge. From fences to large trees, property lines have been causing homeowners consternation for generations. One of the most common and potentially frustrating situations to deal with is a neighbor that has a tree directly on your property line. What can you do if your neighbor’s tree starts growing onto your property? Roots can be a particularly thorny example because they can break up your lawn, dig under your fence, and create unsightly spots on your property. If you have tree roots from your neighbor’s tree on your property, can you remove them?

The answer to this question is most often yes, but the particulars are far more complicated and can depend on a number of factors.

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Common Law Precedent

The common law precedent says that anything on your property is your responsibility. That means if a neighbor’s tree roots start to grow onto your land, you have the right to remove them if you so choose. As long as you do not touch anything on your neighbor’s property and do not do any of the work from their side of the property line, a neighbor’s roots are fair game for removal. This has been held up in many courts over the years. If you don’t want your neighbor’s tree roots on your property, you can safely remove them. This is because people have little recourse or say over what you do with your own property.

However, any action taken to remove tree roots from your own property must be done at your own expense. Your neighbor is not liable or responsible for any costs you incur from removing tree roots on your own accord.

judge working on documents
Image Credit: Freedomz, Shutterstock

Talk to Your Neighbor First

In any situation involving a third party, like a neighbor or neighboring property owner, experts advise always talking to your neighbor first. Many people do not like confrontation, but it is always a good idea to have a conversation before doing anything that potentially involves a neighbor. While removing the tree’s roots might be within your right to do, you should consult with your neighbor beforehand. Even if you just let them know that the tree roots are a nuisance and let them know of your intentions to remove them, it is always good to talk to them before proceeding.

Two smiling male neighbors talking through wooden fence
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Check Your Local Laws

Before removing any tree roots, you should double-check your own local laws. Some states and municipalities have differences in their exact property laws. For example, in some states, if you remove a neighbor’s tree roots and doing so causes damage or harm to the neighbor’s tree, you could be liable for the damages. Say you remove a patch of roots from your neighbor’s tree roots that are on your property, and the tree goes on to die because of the root removal. You could be on the hook for the damages or the cost of the tree’s removal.

In some extreme cases, if you remove the roots and the tree dies and then falls on your property, you could be on the hook for the damages. This is not always the case, but it is the case in certain states. The outcome of these particular situations is often determined in court if the dispute escalates to that point. Legal precedent based on other previous similar cases will weigh heavily on the outcome of your individual case.

It is a good idea to do some research, check your local laws, look up previous cases, and potentially consult a lawyer or your homeowner’s association before proceeding. That way, you will not be surprised by any potential outcomes that might arise from your actions.

lawyer having a meeting with client
Image Credit: Studio Romantic, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

It is within your right to remove things from your own property if you so choose. However, it is also a good idea to consult with your neighbor, check local laws, and read into legal precedent before removing any tree roots from your own yard if they come from your neighbor’s tree. Neighbor disputes can become thorny, and covering all of your bases is a good idea before doing anything that might affect your neighbor’s property or possessions. Regardless of whether its roots extend past your side of the property line, your neighbor’s tree is still their property, and if you inadvertently damage it, you could cause a larger issue than you first expected, even if the roots are in your yard.


Featured Image Credit: Axente Vlad, Shutterstock

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