California Laws on Property Disputes Between Neighbors

A breakdown of California laws on neighbor disputes involving trees, fences, and the right to farm.

By , Attorney · UC Berkeley Law

California Tree Damage Laws

In California, if someone damages your tree, you can recover your actual damages (usually, what you paid for the tree or what it would cost to replace the tree). (To learn what you must prove in order to get actual damages, see When a Neighbor Damages or Destroys Your Tree.) In California, specific laws allow you to recover additional damages if someone deliberately damages your tree. See the table below for the code section and the amount you can sue for (the number is usually represented as a multiple of your actual damages).

In addition, intentionally damaging a tree is a crime in California and can result in arrest, jail, fines, and other penalties. See the table below for the California criminal statute on causing intentional damage to a tree. In addition, general California criminal statutes, such as those related to theft or property damage, may also apply. (To learn more about damages and criminal penalties in tree injury cases, see When a Neighbor Damages or Destroys Your Tree.)

Additional Damages and Criminal Penalties for
Intentional Damage to Trees in California

California Statute for Additional Damages

Additional Amount You Can Sue for in California

California Criminal Statute

Cal. Civ. Code § 3346

Triple damages

Cal. Penal Code § 384a

California Boundary Fence Laws

A boundary fence is a fence that is located on or near a property line, though the exact definition can vary by state. Sometimes even a hedge can act as a boundary. To learn more about boundary fences, including how they are defined, when a neighbor is allowed to build a boundary fence, and who is responsible for repairs and maintenance, see Fences and Neighbors FAQ.

To find California's boundary fence statutes, see the table "Boundary Fence Statutes," below. In addition, there might be a local ordinance (in your city, county, or town) that has rules on boundary fences.

California Boundary Fence Statutes

Cal. Civ. Code § § 841 and 841.4

California Right to Farm Laws

All states have enacted laws that exempt farmers and other agricultural operators from complying with run-of-the-mill nuisance laws -- laws that restrict certain kinds of noisy activity like operation of heavy machinery, or prohibit the use of pesticides, for example. States vary as to how "farming" is defined and how long the agricultural operation must be in existence in order to get protection under right to farm statutes. Some states also list specific things (for example, odor, noise, or dust) that don't constitute a legal nuisance when they're a byproduct of farming or agricultural activity. You can find California's right to farm statute in the table below. (To learn more about right to farm statutes, see Buying a Home in the Country: Do Your Rural Neighbors Have the Right to Farm?.)

California Right to Farm Statutes

Cal. Civ. Code § § 3482.5 and 3482.6

For other Nolo articles on neighbor disputes involving adverse possessions and easements, see Adverse Possession: When Trespassers Become Property Owners and Property Easements: Overview.

To learn more about the property issues covered in this article and other disputes between landowners and neighbors, get Neighbor Law: Fences, Trees, Boundaries & Noise, by the Editors of Nolo.

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