Tree FAQ’s


Frequently asked questions to help you deal with troublesome trees on or near your property, or neighbor complaints about your trees.


If all the trees on your property are well contained within its boundaries, and your neighbors are as well, perhaps you’ll never face a neighbor dispute over trees. However, the more common situation, particularly in urban or suburban areas that is usually not the case. Where lots may be divided by fences, trees may grow large enough where either their trunk straddles the boundary, their branches overhang another property, and trees may fall onto neighboring properties. Here, we’ll look at commonly raised questions, and discuss the legal perspective on the answers.

Who owns a tree that straddles a property line?

Generally, the location of the trunk is used to determine ownership. When a tree straddles a property line, however, various factors are used to determine ownership, including the intention of the property owners. For example, was the tree planted jointly? Do the neighbors treat it as common property through a written agreement or course of conduct sharing responsibility for caring for the tree (e.g., splitting costs for pruning and maintenance).

What if a tree is located on my property but its limbs hang over a neighboring property?

Branches that overhang or roots that enter a neighboring property could be considered a nuisance. “Anything which is injurious to health, or indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property, is a nuisance.” Minn. Stat. 561.01.

For instance, if a tree planted on your property grows across the boundary line impacting your neighbor’s use and enjoyment of their property, it could be considered a nuisance, and the remedy could be monetary or removal of the tree.

Can I trim branches that overhang onto my property?

You can prune branches of a neighbor’s tree that encroaches onto your property. However, you should take several precautions when doing so. Prune only to the property line. Get permission from your neighbor if you need to enter their property to conduct the pruning. Do not cut down the trunk. Take reasonable steps to ensure that the pruning will not be harmful to the tree. For example, pruning at a time of year that will not leave the tree susceptible to disease. When in doubt, seek an opinion from a certified arborist for proper tree maintenance advice.

Can I cut down a tree on my neighbor’s property that overhangs my yard?

No. Cutting down a tree on another’s property without permission is trespass and carries a specific penalty—Minnesota law provides that whoever intentionally cuts down a tree without the tree owner’s permission can be assessed three times the amount of monetary loss suffered by the tree owner. Monetary loss can be measured in terms of the replacement cost for a similar tree (species, size, health, and location). If the tree damage is unintentional, then the penalty would not be tripled but would be the replacement cost.

Can I be liable if my tree falls and causes damage?

Possibly. If you know or reasonably know that your tree is unsound, you could be liable if it falls and causes damage. You are expected to recognize obvious symptoms of a potential issue (e.g., dead limbs, visible decay, leaning perilously). You should also be aware of targets in the path of a falling tree like fences, buildings, cars, etc.

What should I do if I have issues or concerns with my neighbor’s tree?

Talk to your neighbor. It is almost always better to reach an amicable agreement than to expend the time, effort, and money fighting in court.


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