tree between houses

Whose tree is it?

To determine who owns the tree, look at the tree trunk. If it is on the property boundary line, both properties own the tree (CA Civil Code 834). If the trunk is fully in one property, that property owns the tree, even if branches and roots encroach into the other property (CA Civil Code 833).

What can I do about my neighbor’s tree?

Maybe your neighbor’s tree has branches hanging into your yard or growing into your building. It is advisable to communicate with your neighbor and agree on the solution. In general, you are allowed to prune or trim back branches on your side of the property, as long as you don’t harm the tree. Basic law dictates that we should all avoid harming others. So if you have a tree near property boundaries, please be considerate of your neighbors and keep in mind that you may be held responsible if your tree damages your neighbor or their property. Likewise, if you are pruning you neighbor’s tree, ensure that you aren’t damaging the trees health and creating a hazardous tree.

What can I do if both my neighbor and I own the tree?

The tree’s trunk is in between both properties, so you share ownership with your neighbor over the tree. Both of you have a say on how to maintain the tree and whether the tree goes or stays. Open, respectful communication between both parties can usually resolve any issues. A certified arborist can provide pruning and removal recommendations. Keep in mind that some trees are protected according to city regulations and will require a permit for removal.

What can I do if it’s a city tree?

A tree that is close to the sidewalk or in between the sidewalk and street may be considered a city or street tree. When in doubt, contact the city to confirm tree ownership and city tree regulations. Some cities prune their trees on a regular cycle and may also respond to hazardous city tree emergencies. Other cities will allow or expect you to prune the street tree directly in front of your property. In most cases, a pruning permit will be required from the city before conducting tree work.