We have three fully grown pine trees in our yard, practically on the property line. We wanted to remove them because they are in direct line with our swimming pool and we are afraid that they could blow down in a bad storm. Our neighbors fought us on this. If the trees should fall onto their property and damage their pool or yard, who's responsible for the damage and who has to remove the trees from their yard?
Your first order of business is to discern the exact property line. If the pines have grown into the line -- or if the trunks now straddle it -- and both you and your neighbors have treated the trees as your own, then neither of you can remove them without the other's consent. Each co-owner is responsible for damage a boundary tree does on his or her own property.
Are the pine trees truly unsound and likely to fall? If the trees are indeed dangerous, someone has to act quickly, before injury occurs. Pool damage and removing a downed tree probably isn't your greatest concern; insurance would step in to pay for at least part of that. But what if one of the stately pines tips over atop a passerby or crashes through a roof? A tree owner who knows his or her tree is an accident waiting to happen may be legally responsible for the resulting personal injury or property damage. Co-owners of a boundary tree may both be liable.
Try explaining to your tree-saving neighbors that your insurance company insists on removing dangerous items on property. You could suggest that they, too, talk with the insurance company representatives if they seem to need extra persuading. Perhaps you and your neighbors could agree to remove the ungainly trees and replace them with young trees.
More questions? Check out our Trees and Neighbors FAQ and Boundaries and Neighbors FAQ. If you still have questions, or if your situation is particularly complex, consider purchasing Nolo's Neighbor Law: Fences, Trees, Boundaries & Noise.
Updated by: Marcia Stewart