Bridge Law GroupA bridge graphic followed by the words Bridge Law Group
Make sure it's “knot” an issue
Written by Beverly Everson on January 12th, 2021

Years ago, my sister lived in Arkansas and had a lovely pecan tree in her backyard in which one large branch extended onto her neighbor’s property.   One day she came home early to find her neighbor’s grandson in her driveway throwing a basketball into the tree.  He helpfully explained that his grandparents had told him to do this and then pick up and bring home any pecans that he was able to dislodge.  Obviously, this is not good neighbor/tree etiquette.  To try and maintain good neighbor relations and stay within the bounds of the decided law there are some rules of thumb to follow. 

Technically if you have a fruit/nut tree in which a branch extends across your neighbor’s property, the fruit is yours, but you have no right to enter your neighbor’s property to harvest that fruit without permission.  I was unable to find any caselaw regarding fruit that has fallen to the ground, but the consensus appears to be that it has become your neighbor’s property at that point in time. 

A fruit harvest can often be a mere irritation between neighbors, but when it comes to tree trimming the matter can become substantially more problematic.  You do have the right to trim branches that extend onto your property from a neighboring property, however, it cannot be done in such a manner that the trimming endangers the safety or the life of the tree.  In fact, damaging the attractiveness of the tree could be the grounds for litigation.  It is understood, however, that your neighbor’s tree cannot do harm to your property, for example, constantly rubbing against your siding or roof. 

Tree roots are more problematic as their potential damage to adjoining property can be great and the removal of any portion of the tree root can damage the life of the tree and the safety of the surrounding structures should the tree become unstable and topple in the next windstorm.   Liability for damage may not end there if it is perceived that a tree added to the value of the property.  In Minnesota, developers have been held responsible for the difference in the value of the property with and without shade trees that were damaged by development on adjoining property.  In other words, damages can go beyond mere replacement of the tree.   

Keep in mind that, should a tree issue arise, self-help may not be your best solution.  First, raise the issue with your neighbor and try and reach a cooperative resolution.  Should you feel the need to trim a tree, use a professional with insurance coverage.  If there is damage being done to your property because of a tree, document the damage and Bridge Law Group will always be ready to consult with you on a particularly “knotty” issue. 

2900 Washington Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN 55411
Office: (763) 201-1200
Facsimile: (612) 345-4220

This is advertising material. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice, nor does it form a lawyer-client relationship with the recipient.  The information contained herein is based on authorities that are subject to change and is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind. Bridge Law Group, Ltd., does not assume any liability for any errors, omissions or damages resulting from the use of the information. This document may not be reproduced or distributed in any form without the written permission of Bridge Law Group, Ltd.