Over the last few weeks we've told you of the many ways your neighbours can drive you crazy. But you probably didn't realize that even the landscaping can cause you nightmares. How can something as lovely as a tree cause trouble between you and your neighbour? Well...
Trees planted on the boundary belong to both neighbour's equally. Both must agree before either one can trim the tree or cut it down. But if the tree is likely to injure you or cause damage to your property you can act without your neighbour's permissions. However, you can only do what is necessary to solve the problem. If your neighbour trims or cuts down a boundary tree without your permission, you can sue your neighbour for damages to compensate you, but, in most cases, the damages involved will not justify the expense of a lawsuit.
If a branch from a neighbour's tree hangs over your property and injures you or causes damage to your property, your neighbour is legally responsible for the damage. If you see a tree branch that you're worried may cause you damage, you can ask your neighbour to have it removed. If your neighbour doesn't want to remove the branch, he may change his mind if you point out that he will be responsible for any damage it causes, for example if it comes crashing through your roof during a storm. If you don't want to talk to your neighbour or if your neighbour refuses to do anything, you have the right to cut the branch off. You can only cut off the part of the branch that is hanging over your property, and you can't go on your neighbour's property to do the cutting.
If roots from a neighbour's tree are invading your property, you have the right to cut the roots out. You can only cut out the roots that are actually on your property, and you can't cut out the roots in such a way that you kill the tree if there's a way of removing the roots without killing the tree. Your neighbour may be legally responsible for damage caused by the tree roots.
Trees on your lawn that you think belong to you may in fact belong tot he municipality. You can't trim or cut down a municipal tree. In some municipalities you may not even be able to cut down your own trees because of by-laws that protect mature trees. Check with the municipality before you get out the saw.