Who is Responsible for Overhanging Tree Branches?

Any part of a tree that overhangs onto your property is considered your responsibility, even the falling seeds and leaves.
Written by Abbey Orzech
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
The position of a tree’s trunk near a property line determines who is the rightful owner of the tree. However, any part of the tree that overhangs or overlaps someone else's property becomes that owner’s responsibility.  
If Neighbor Ted planted a tree a few years back and the branches are now overhanging onto your property, are those your branches now? Is that corner of your yard still at the mercy of Ted’s trimming schedule or lack thereof? 
Here to detail the general rules of overhanging branches and tree ownership is
, the
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savings and expert home maintenance tips. We’ll go over how to determine who is responsible for what part of a tree encroaching on a property line and the rights you have as either the tree-owning neighbor or the neighbor onto whose property the tree is overhanging. 
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How to determine if a tree is on your property

First things first, you’ll want to determine if the tree in question is crossing onto your property or growing from your property.
This can be quite simple if you know your property lines—if the tree trunk is growing from your side of the property line, you own the tree. 
However, this can get harder to decipher if you don’t know the exact position of your property lines. If you’ve had a property survey conducted at your home, consult those results. They should plainly spell out where your property ends and your neighbor’s begins. 
If you have never had a property survey, don’t have the results, or have inconclusive results, you may need to schedule a survey that will include physical markers of your property line
So what happens if the tree’s trunk crosses directly over the property line? Simply put, you will be responsible for the portion of the tree on your side of the property line, and your neighbor will be responsible for anything on their side. 
You’ll want to establish the tree’s position in relation to a property line because it will ultimately determine who is responsible for cutting overhanging tree branches. 

Who is responsible for overhanging tree branches?

While there is typically a clear tree owner, there are rights and responsibilities outlined for both the owner and the neighbor with the tree’s overhanging branches. 
Any branches or foliage that overhang a neighbor’s property are considered that neighbor’s responsibility—but only up to their property line. 
They are allowed to trim, cut, or alter the parts of the tree that cross their property line as long as their alteration does not cause damage to the rest of the tree. If your actions to the overhanging portion of the tree cause damage to the rest of the tree, you may be liable for those damages.
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Overall maintenance of the tree & potential hazards 

The well-being of the overall tree is the responsibility of the owner. That includes watering and fertilizing as needed, ensuring there is no disease or infestation, treating the issue if it arises, and trimming or cutting weak or damaged branches.
If the tree is diseased, infested, or weak from mismanagement and causes any damage outside of your property boundary because of it, you may be held liable for those damages
On the other hand, if the tree is healthy and shows no signs of disease or damage but still somehow falls, any damage inflicted on the neighbor’s property will be the neighbor’s responsibility. A tree falling is usually covered under the Acts of God
peril of home insurance
, which often includes wind, storm, or lightning damage. 

Scenic views

Some places have view ordinances that regulate scenic views as part of a property’s value. If you’re putting your house up for sale and mention the “serene lake view,” the neighbor’s overhanging tree branches can hinder that selling point. 
If your portion of a tree obstructs a protected scenic view, you may be held responsible for cutting the overhanging branches, or your city may do it for you. 

Seeds, leaves, and other debris 

This one is pretty simple—wherever the tree debris falls will determine who is responsible for it. Basically, if it drops on your side of the property, you’ll be the one picking it up. This applies to seeds, twigs, acorns, leaves, and any other debris that naturally falls from a tree. 

Does home insurance cover damage from tree branches?

Maybe a tree branch projectile found its way through your window during a huge storm. Or the branch stemmed from a dead trunk, broke off from brittleness, and created a crater in your roof. Will these damages be covered under your home insurance?
Ultimately, this depends on how the damage happened. Any damage caused by weak, diseased, infested, or otherwise damaged trees won’t be covered because it’s preventable. However, if the damage was caused by a healthy tree that showed no signs of illness or breakage, you’ll likely have coverage as long as a covered peril was the cause. 

How to find home insurance 

Falling trees and windswept tree branches are just some of the risks of owning a home. Hopefully, you won’t experience any significant damage to your home and belongings, but if you do, it pays to have a solid
home insurance
policy backing you up. 
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Any tree branches that cross from another’s property onto your own are your responsibility for cutting or trimming down.
Your neighbor can trim, cut, or alter any portion of the tree overhanging onto their property line as long as it doesn’t compromise the tree's overall well-being.
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