Who pays if tree pruning damages the fence between neighbors? – Boston Herald



Q: I have a large tree on my site near the border of the site that I have pruned over the years. Some of the branches fall on the property line, and some – into the neighbor’s yard. This was never a problem until a neighbor set up a fence at the edge of the property. Now the neighbor says that if I damage her fence, she will ask me to fix it. Can she?

– Stephen

BUT: Every year around this time, I get a lot of questions about trees, so now is a great time to get familiar with the basics of the law.

If the branches or roots of your tree are out of bounds, your neighbor may prune them as long as it does not harm the tree’s health. Your neighbor must do this before he damages their property. This is because the law not only allows the homeowner to protect his property in a similar situation, but also requires it.

If the tree is healthy and the branch or root damages the neighboring property, the neighbor is liable for the damage caused to him.

However, if the tree is not healthy, the owner of the tree will be responsible for the damage.

Your situation has a twist because you took on the responsibility of your neighbor to prune the branches on her side of the property border.

With this additional responsibility, you also assume the responsibility to do so in a way that does not damage her property. This was easy enough to do when the branches didn’t fall on anything dear.

Now that your roommate has set up a fence and has warned you that she intends to hold you accountable if the fence is damaged, your safest option is to stop trimming off-line parts of the tree.

Your neighbor will have to do the pruning, and if she damages her fence in the process, repairs will be at her dime.

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and is certified by the Florida Bar Association as an expert in real estate law. He handles real estate, litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Florida. He is Chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. A: He frequently consults on general issues and trends in Florida real estate with various companies across the country. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.


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