The great neighborly outdoors

ownership of the tree depends

Tree next to fenceAs I’ve noted, being a homeowner was new to me when we bought this house 19 years ago. Ever since, it’s been a series of neighborly negotiations with various sets of folks.

A couple months ago, a panel of the fence separating us from the the neighbor to the south fell down. The neighbor was irritated with us. He surmised that someone came into our backyard and cut the fixtures holding the fence in place. It DID look cut, but what would be the purpose?

He believed we should have fastened our gate more securely. While it is true that our gate swings open now and then with a stiff breeze, it’s not for lack of trying to correct it. We have had at least three people come and “fix” it, but it remained unfixed.

In fact, one Saturday morning, the latch was somehow positioned so that I could not even leave my own yard. I wonder how it happened? I had to use a large rock to liberate myself from my own property.

The neighborly fellow to the north pointed out that a large branch – about four meters long – that has its roots on our property but overhangs onto his, came crashing down. It may well have been that tree, though he has a similar one on his property.

He claims that the branch nearly came down on his shed, which would have cost US $10,000 to replace. I seriously doubt it’s worth 20% of that, but no matter.

This got me to wondering: who IS responsible for those branches? This article from a Rochester (NY)N newspaper notes:

“In New York, a property owner is responsible for any trees on their property — more specifically, the trees whose trunks are on their property. Ownership of the tree depends on where the trunk of the tree is located, regardless of where the branches are located.

“If a tree trunk is located on a boundary line — sometimes referred to as a ‘boundary tree’ — that tree could be owned by both homeowners, based on the percentage of the tree that is located on each property. Insurance companies will sometimes use those percentages to determine who is liable if a tree comes down and causes property damage.

“A property owner can take down branches that hang over their property — up to the property line, even without permission from the tree owner. However, the law also states that if a homeowner trims branches on a tree and that causes damage to the overall health of the tree, that person could be liable, and might have to pay to replace it.”

In fact there are a lot of articles on the topic. I imagine we’ll get the whole tree trimmed this summer as a precaution, though we may ask he neighbor to kick in on the cost.