Having to cope with an unwanted tree that sits directly on one’s property line is an understandable frustration. However, a property owner should exercise caution before taking matters into their own hands because longstanding legal principles do not favor an adjoining neighbor cutting down a tree that sits on the boundary between parcels.
When the trunk of a tree is on the boundary line between properties, the neighbors are joint owners of the tree. Since the tree is common property of both owners, neither neighbor has a right to cut or injure the tree without the other owner’s consent.
An adjoining owner does have the right to trim any encroaching limbs or branches that extend onto his or her property up to the boundary line, as long as there is no trespass onto the other neighbor’s property. (This right exists even if the trunk of the tree is entirely on the other neighbor’s property.)
An adjoining owner is not, however, justified in cutting down the tree if limbs or branches are projecting onto his or her own property. Instead, the owner can maintain an action for damages against the neighbor if an injury occurs.
Indiana judges have reiterated time and time again that the optimum way of handling these disputes is to obtain an agreement with the adjoining neighbor.
About the Author
Ashley R. Hollen, an attorney at Kahn, Dees, Donovan & Kahn, LLP (KDDK), in Evansville, Indiana, practices in the areas of business law, tax and employee benefits law, environmental law, real estate law, contract negotiation and creditors’ rights and collections. She is a responsive, goal-oriented attorney whose attention to fine details benefits clients she serves.
(Jordan Heck, a law clerk for KDDK, contributed to this article.)