It’s a season-round issue — your neighbor’s trees.
In the fall, leaves from the tree are blown onto your yard; in the winter, the wind splinters its branches; in the spring, its foliage blocks sunlight from your window; and in the summer, the heat snaps a tree limb onto your car.
But before taking action into your own hands, be sure you’re not overstepping any legal boundaries. California has several laws that help protect your property, as well as your neighbor’s.
Can I trim my neighbor’s trees?
It depends on where the tree’s trunks and branches lie.
If the trunk, limbs or roots are on your property line, you can trim or cut them to upkeep your space. But you can’t go over the line, according to California’s code of civil procedure.
All trimmings should be reasonable and shouldn’t harm or kill the tree. Otherwise, you could be responsible for any damages.
In the case where the tree trunk lies right in the middle of your and your neighbor’s property line, you can still trim wherever it encroaches on your space but you can’t destroy it without your neighbor’s consent.
Can I sue my neighbor because of the branches?
You could, but it won’t be easy.
A real estate lawyer told The Bee in November 2021 that residents can take action if a fallen branch causes property damage, and if the tree is damaged or diseased and the owner is not addressing it.
However, your neighbor is not liable if small debris, such as leaves, collects in your yard, or if larger branches are falling due to an “act of God,” such as a severe storm.
A tree did fall on my property. What now?
Sometimes, acts of nature do take over and toss a tree onto your property.
It happened in Sacramento — the “City of Trees” — over the winter when windy storms toppled trees and branches throughout the city.
In Sacramento, you’ll have to deal with the tree yourself if it’s on private property. There are private tree services that can help with cleanup, a Sacramento County spokesperson told The Bee in January. And depending on your home and car insurance, you may get the damages covered.
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Hanh Truong is a reporter on The Sacramento Bee’s service journalism desk. She was previously a freelance journalist, covering education and culture for PBS SoCal and music for buzzbands.la.