It is the responsibility of the local municipality or the state, depending on where you live and the road in question. Just like road maintenance, the state is responsible for state roads, the county is responsible for county roads and towns are responsible for town roads. In cities, all roads are maintained by the local government. So if a tree is down or is overhanging the road, whoever manages the road clears it.

Have it in mind that most main thoroughfares are state roads, meaning the state Department of Transportation is responsible for getting trees and limbs out of the street. Town roads are usually smaller side roads. However, rights and responsibilities for trees in front of houses vary across states and municipalities.

For instance, residential yards abutting public roadways are often overlain by a right-of-way adjacent to the pavement that permits the municipality or state to maintain the road and related infrastructure. Trees are often planted by the municipality or state in the right – of – way for amenity, engineering, and environmental purposes.

Most times, the municipality or state retains authority and responsibility for the trees. But sometimes, the municipality legally transfers responsibility of street trees to the adjacent landowner. Should a homeowner elect to plant a tree in the right – of – way, the homeowner may involuntarily relinquish ownership of the tree to the municipality or state due to right – of – way control.

Always note that these rights and responsibilities are clearly defined in municipal ordinances, administrative codes, or state laws. But if a tree trunk is on your property, you are responsible for maintaining it. You are responsible for making sure any tree on your property is healthy and there are no known hazards.

Trees are not meant to be planted on the right-of-way without first consulting local authorities because they may potentially create conflicts or hazards. The municipal department of public works or the state department of transportation can help clarify rights and responsibilities for roadside trees. Here are few factors concerning tree maintenance and care in the United States.

Factors Affecting Tree Maintenance and Care

  1. Tree Hazards

Note that if a tree trunk is in your property, you are expected to inspect your property for signs of diseases or rot on a consistent basis. You are also expected to look for any weak or damaged branches. If any portion of a tree that was a known hazard falls and damages your neighbour’s property, you will likely be responsible.

Also note that if your neighbour gives you a warning about a tree or portion of a tree that they feel is a hazard or files a complaint with the town about a tree on your property that they believe to be a hazard, if you do nothing to address this concern and any portion of the tree falls on the neighbour’s property, you may be liable for any damage caused. Also, if a complaint is filed with the town, the town may require you to remove the tree, or they may even come to remove it themselves.

  1. Debris From Overhanging Branches

Also note that if leaves, acorns, twigs or other debris from a nearby tree (on your neighbour’s property or on the road) falls onto your property, you are tasked with cleaning this debris up. Even though the tree trunk is not on your property, anything from the tree that falls onto your property is your responsibility. These items are not considered damage.

  1. Fallen Trees

If the tree on your property or a portion of the tree falls onto your neighbour’s property and the tree was well maintained with no sign of disease or rot, any damage caused will be your neighbour’s responsibility. Have it in mind that most insurance companies in the United States will cover the claim as long as they deem it an Act of God, because this situation could not have been anticipated by a reasonable person.

  1. Diseased Trees

Also, if a tree on your property or a portion of your tree falls on your neighbour’s property and the tree has obvious signs of disease or rot, or if your neighbour had filed a complaint with the town or with you about the hazard, you may be liable for any damage caused. Also note that you could be considered negligent for failing to remove a known hazard before damage occurred or for failing to properly inspect and maintain the trees on your property.

  1. Overhanging Branches on Your Property

Even if the tree trunk is on your neighbour’s property or on the road, you are mandated by law to cut any branches that extend onto your property line. You are responsible for the cost of cutting any branches you choose to trim. Also note that you can cut back anything up to your property line. You must take care; however, that any maintenance you perform on the tree branches does not damage the rest of the tree.

Note that if your actions cause damage or ultimately kill a tree that is not yours, you may be found liable for up to three times the replacement cost of the tree. Depending on the size and type of the tree, the typical replacement cost can be anywhere from $500 to $3000. Some rare trees can be valued at tens of thousands of dollars.

  1. Trees Blocking Scenic View

Have it in mind that a handful of cities have a “view ordinance,” which states that a scenic view is an important part of a home’s value. These ordinances allow you to sue your neighbour to force your neighbour to remove a tree (or the branches of a tree) that is blocking your scenic view.

Note that these ordinances are very specific, so if you live in one of the few cities that have one, you need to research the law to determine if it actually applies to you. Generally, vegetation remains one of the most important elements of roadside maintenance.

A healthy roadside environment reduces maintenance needs and costs, reduces erosion and improves water quality, improves water infiltration and reduces runoff, preserves the roadside surface, provides safety for vehicles and travellers, limits liability for the governing agency, maintains good public relations, improves the overall driving experience, and provides habitat for wildlife populations. It is the duty of both government and citizens alike to tend to trees to save and protect the environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What Are The Clearance Heights For Trees Overhanging A Highway?

The clearance heights for trees overhanging a highway should be 5.05m (16′ 6”) and 2.4m over a footpath close to the highway.

  1. Who Is Responsible For Trees Overhanging The Highway?

The rule in most climes place the responsibility for a tree overhanging the highway with the occupier of the land where it is rooted.

  1. Is the Landowner Responsible For Trees Overhanging A Public Highway?

Trees on private property adjoining the Public Highway are the responsibility of the owner/occupier but the Highway Authority has a duty, and powers of enforcement, to ensure that such trees do not endanger the Highway or its users under Section 154 of the Highways Act.

  1. Who Is Responsible For Trees Overhanging Roads in Texas?

The general rule of thumb is, if the tree is on your land, you’re liable for it, but in Texas, a person is not under an affirmative duty to prune or trim a healthy tree when its branches extend over his neighbor’s property, even if the tree branches extend over the neighbor’s roof or driveway where cars are parked.

  1. What Should You Do If You See Overhanging Vegetation On The Highway?

If you see an overhanging vegetation on the highway, as a responsible citizen, what is expected of you is to call the attention of the authority. They are in the best position to handle it.

  1. What Are The Rules On Overhanging Trees?

The rules on overhanging trees states that if the branches of a neighbor’s tree start to grow over to your side, you can cut them back to the boundary point between you and your neighbor’s property, as long as the tree is not under a tree preservation order.

  1. What Is Classed As A Public Highway?

A public highway is classed as a main road or thoroughfare, such as a street, boulevard, or parkway, available to the public for use for travel or transportation. If a particular road or highway is designated as private, its character will not be altered if it is actually a public road or highway.

  1. Is There A Legal Height For Neighbors Trees?

No, and this is so because there is no legislation relating to the height of trees and nothing the council can do to enforce a reduction in the height of a neighbor’s tall tree.

  1. What Can You Do About Neighbors Overhanging Trees?

When a neighbor’s tree is overhanging on your compound, all you have to do is to talk to the neighbor about what you expect from him. It could be convincing the neighbor to trim the tree or inform the neighbor that you want to trim the tree. The bottom line is that, whatever you choose to do, you must make sure you carry your neighbor along.

But if your neighbor is not cooperative, and you think your neighbor’s tree is dangerous, you can report it to the council – for example if you think it might fall over. They might ask the owner to make it safe or deal with it themselves. Search for ‘trees’ on your council’s website to find which department to contact.

  1. Which Laws And Legislation Allow The Council To Enforce Overhanging Vegetation?

The laws and legislation that allows the council to enforce overhanging vegetation is the Highways Act 1980, Section 154 – Cutting or felling etc. trees etc.

  1. Do I Need Permission To Cut Overhanging Branches?

Under common law, a person may cut back any branch (or root) from a neighbor’s tree that overhangs or encroaches onto their property. You must not trespass onto the land on which the trees are growing. branches or roots must not be cut back beyond the boundary in anticipation of them overhanging.

  1. How Close To Property Line Can You Plant A Tree?

As a rule of thumb, trees should be planted 3 – 4 feet from property lines to allow for future growth.

  1. Who Is Responsible For Pruning Overhanging Branches?

You have the responsibility for cutting any branches that extend onto your property line. You are responsible for the cost of cutting any branches you choose to trim. You can cut back anything up to your property line.

  1. What Is The Law Regarding Overhanging Tree Branches In England?

The law in England regarding overhanging tree branches states that you can trim branches or roots that cross into your property from a neighbor’s property or a public road. You can only trim up to the property boundary. If you do more than this, your neighbor could take you to court for damaging their property.

  1. Who Is Responsible For Cutting Overhanging Tree Branches UK?

A tree belongs to the person who owns the land on which it grows. However, if you’re the owner/occupier of land over which the branches of a tree overhang, you are generally entitled to chop back the branches to the boundary line.

  1. Who Is Responsible For Fallen Branches?

In most American states, if your tree or any part of it falls on your neighbors’ property and causes damage to their property through no fault of your own (due to a snow storm, winds, hurricane, or other so-called “act of God”), you are not responsible.

  1. What Are Your Rights If A Neighbors Tree Overhangs Your Garden?

You can cut branches and/or roots back up to the limit of your property. You are not allowed to go into a neighbor’s garden without permission to cut a tree back. Nor can you lean over into his garden to cut back the ‘offending’ branch – you will be trespassing.

  1. Who Is Responsible For Pruning Overhanging Branches in Toronto?

Under Toronto Municipal Code 629, all damaged or dead trees, branches or portions thereof must be removed by the property owner. However, if the tree is not owned by you, you may have the right to prune it so long as you ensure that no damages will be caused.

  1. How Do You Stop A Pine Tree From Growing Taller?

If you have a pine shrub or tree in your yard, spring is the time to control its growth. Of course, you can prune out dead or diseased pine branches any time. Just be sure to cut them close to the trunk, right where the branch starts to flare.

  1. What Are My Rights If A Neighbors Tree Overhangs My Garden?

You have a common law right to cut back tree branches that overhang onto your property. The law states that any branches cut off belong to the person on whose land the tree originally grew, so you should ask your neighbor if they want them back, or if they are happy for you to dispose of them.

  1. Can My Neighbor Cut My Tree Without Asking?

In law you are entitled to cut off any branches overhanging your property provided you return them to the owners. Entering someone’s property, without permission, to cut a tree would undoubtedly be illegal. You may need to take matters to court.

  1. Can You Cut Down Your Neighbors Overhanging Branches?

Yes, you can cut any branches that are overhanging into your compound or garden as long as you only remove the bits on your side of the boundary.

  1. Who Pays To Cut Overhanging Branches?

You can cut back any overhanging branch that comes into your property. However, the cut branch(es), and any fruit or flowers attached to the branch(es) remain the property of the tree owner and must be returned. If the tree has a Preservation Order on it then you cannot cut/pare any branches.

  1. Can Your Neighbor Attach Things To Your Fence?

No, you can’t attach anything to your neighbor’s wall without their permission. And, if you have their permission, it might be best to get it in a signed document.

  1. Can I Throw My Neighbors Branches Back?

In actual sense, your neighbor is legally entitled to demand them back, so you won’t be able to stockpile the branches for your next bonfire. But do not throw them into the neighbor’s garden, as this could constitute garden waste fly tipping.

  1. Are You Responsible For Leaves That Fall Into Your Neighbors?

Under the law, falling leaves are considered a natural product of trees and not something for which the owner of the tree can be held liable. Homeowners, whether they own the tree or simply live next to it, are responsible for the cleanup of natural debris that enters their yard, no matter the source.

  1. Can You Force Your Neighbor To Trim Your Tree?

You don’t have any right to force your neighbor to trim your tree.

  1. Can You Cut A Neighbor’s Tree Blocking View?

In most cases, property owners do not have any right to force a neighbor to prune or remove a view-obstructing tree. Unless the tree is violating view ordinances, zoning laws, subdivision rules, or existing easements, homeowners have no zoning rights to light, air, or view.

  1. How Do You Block Out Your Neighbors View?

Even though fences and brick walls can do the trick, adding an extra divider, screen or plant barrier can block your neighbor’s two-story view for good. To create your secret retreat, freestanding privacy screens, wood slat partitions and partially enclosed pergolas are effective (and nice to look at).

  1. What Is The Fastest-Growing Plant For Privacy?

Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, so it can create a lush and exotic privacy screen very quickly. Some varieties of bamboo are invasive, so choose a slow-spreading, clumping variety, or consider planting it in large raised planters to keep it under control.

  1. Can A Neighbor Enter My Garden Without Permission?

Generally speaking, unless under specific circumstances, accessing your neighbors land without their permission is trespassing.

  1. How Close To A Boundary Can I Plant A Hedge?

It depends, but in situations where you cannot agree with your neighbor to jointly plant a hedge on your property boundary, it is prudent to leave a gap of at least two to three feet between the boundary and your hedge.