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Property Line Questions......

Discussion in 'Commercial Tree Care and Climbing' started by teamtree, Jan 26, 2009.

  1. teamtree

    teamtree AboristSite Guru

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    I was doing a removal for a lady this morning and things were going fine and as I was getting off the bucket truck the lady asked if I could remove a low hanging limb from the neighbor's silver maple. I did not think too much of it and it was a pretty simple pruning. The limb was hanging down in her driveway. I thought sure, no problem. I know she has the right to remove the limb from her property and as long as I leave a proper pruning cut we would be fine. I look over at the neighbor 2 houses away and he is snapping pictures of me and did not think to much of it. We proceed to prune the limb and as I am making my final cut the guy comes over (he owns both houses...next door to my customer and the next one) and wants to know what we are doing. I told him I am pruning the limb so the neighbor does not have to deal with it in her driveway. We exchange thoughts and he disagrees with her rights. I finish the cut and come down from the bucket. At this point I did not think much of it and my customer was well within her rights and I did a good pruning cut (no harm to the tree).

    I walk around the corner to go talk to the guy and discuss potential hazards in the tree (broken limb, poorly installed cable, multiple cavitites). I know the guy from a previous working relationship and he is a pretty nice guy. I come around the corner and the police are waiting for me. It turns out the neighbors don't get along and I was caught in the middle.

    I explain to the officer what we were doing and said I would stop what we are doing until the property owners can work it out. I pointed out we were doing the right thing and the tree has hazards in the tree over the property line. I also told the guy who owns the tree what the hazards are in the tree and if she wants to proceed with pruning the tree back over the property line, she has the right to do so at her expense. I also told the guy of the broken limb in the tree and if something were to happen he may be liable due to neglect as he is now aware of the situation with the tree.

    I realize I should have made an attempt to talk with the owner of the tree before we did anything. I know now to do that in the future.

    My question....how do you guys handle these situations? Is there any literature available to provide to homeowners that will spell out both sides rights?
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2009
  2. John Paul Sanborn

    John Paul Sanborn Above average climber

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    There are several books dealing with tree law. It is a subset of property law. The big problem is that it will vary between municipalities.

    The concept that you were addressing is encroachment. As long as you did not trespass to perform the work, or do work in such a way as to possibly compromise the tree, you are usually within the bounds of the law.
     
  3. Thechap

    Thechap ArboristSite Operative

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    So, what did the police say/do?
     
  4. Sunrise Guy

    Sunrise Guy Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Most municipalities and their courts therein, hold that once a given neighbor's tree limb crosses over the property line of the bordering neighbor, that neighbor, whose property is infringed on, has the right to cut the limb up to said property line. Now, that's all fine and good but, in practice, most tree limbs do not line their nodes up with property lines for proper cuts. With that in mind, it's better to get the neighbor's written permission to make the cuts back to a main leader if the limbs need to be removed. We always tell a client to get their neighbors involved if they want us to make cuts on neighboring trees whose branches are in their yards. It keeps everybody happy and, with written permission, it keeps ugly scenes from developing.

    As far as booklets on the law, ISA has an Arboriculture and the Law type book by an attorney. Since cities may vary in how they approach the above, though, you may want to contact the governing bodies whose boundaries you work in and get a hard copy of specific laws that spell out the tree laws in your area.

    Again, get permission in writing and you should be OK, in most cases.
     
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  5. CentaurG2

    CentaurG2 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Tree work and neighbor disputes go hand in hand. It is best to avoid them all together but inevitably you will get caught in the middle some time. Trying to reason with an irate neighbor, irregardless of weather you are within the word of the law, is like talking to a wall. Sounds crazy, but when we get caught in the middle of these disputes, we just stop work and leave. We tell the homeowner that we will be back when they work things out with the neighbor. Aint right, but it is the simplest way to disarm the situation. Tree companies are not judge judy. Believe me, a pi$$ed off homeowner with nothing but time on their hands, can make BIG trouble for you and your company. It is astounding at how clever people can really be when angry.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2009
  6. teamtree

    teamtree AboristSite Guru

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    We did have to go onto their property to retrieve material and rope the last two chunks down. The neighbor said he did not hold it against me and he had a problem with the neighbor.

    The cop pretty much just logged the complaint and left. I explained to him I was done and that the homeowners can fight it out in court. He laughed and went on his way.

    Ok...should I leave a stub about 8' long on a 6" diameter limb? to avoid crossing the line with my bucket truck? I finished the cut at the branch collar.
     
  7. John Paul Sanborn

    John Paul Sanborn Above average climber

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    I will usually make it a reduction cut if possible. Most often you will not have a problem when working to Industry Best Practices, it just depends on how risk averse you are.

    This is encroachment

    Infringement is encroaching on ones personal rights,you using your telescope to look at the neighbor lady is infringing on here right to privacy.
     
  8. tree md

    tree md Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I have had to deal with a few neighbor disputes as well. I usually just tell them that I am not on anyone's side and that I am just trying to do my job. That usually calms them down a bit. I had one last winter where a renter would not unlock the gate on a privacy fence because he was being evicted by the owner. The owner was from out of town and was only going to be there a few days and needed to get the work done before she left town. You can imagine how hard it would be to have to lift all the gear over an 8' privacy fence as well as throw tree limbs and debris over the fence to clean up. I told the renter that It was no problem, I would just cut the lock with bolt cutters. He found the key pretty quick after that. His feathers were pretty ruffled but I explained to him that I was not on anyone's side I was just trying to get the job done without breaking mine or my helps backs. He calmed down after that. I also had two old guys arguing over trees on one of my first jobs of my own back in the 90's. The trees were clearly on the property of the guy who I was working for but the neighbor was pissed because of the shade that he would be missing and God only knows what other disputes they had had before. Man, they were just like that movie grumpy old men. The old guy I was working for was helping me do the job and him and the neighbor were cussing each other the whole time. The neighbor yelled over to me to cut the guys leg off, LOL. Not fun when this stuff happens but it goes with the job sometimes I guess.
     
  9. Lumberjacked

    Lumberjacked ArboristSite Operative

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    I have read a few of the books and from what I gather is this: You can legally prune the limb back to the property line without any legal issues. If you cross that line to make a "proper cut" then you can be found at fault. If you "shear" or "top" the tree back to the line and it is found you have made irreversable damages to the tree then you too can be found at fault. So I would say a few limbs here or there would be fine but I would NOT cut all the limbs from the bottom to the top. But dont take my word for it!
     
  10. Tree Wizard

    Tree Wizard ArboristSite Operative

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    Neighbor feuds are never fun to get in the middle of and it seems that trees many times are the scapegoat for the real issues between the neighbors.

    That is why we have a form that we make our clients get the neighbor to sign off on anytime our client wants us to prune neighbors' trees. If they don't get it signed -there are probably issues - we don't prune and don't get involved in the dispute.
     
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  11. Sunrise Guy

    Sunrise Guy Addicted to ArboristSite

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    To set you straight: Infringement MAY refer more to ones personal rights, but when used as "infringed on," as I did, it refers to encroachment or trespass.


    From Free Dictionary:

    2. infringe on or upon : to encroach or trespass on
     
  12. Slvrmple72

    Slvrmple72 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    "Now, that's all fine and good but, in practice, most tree limbs do not line their nodes up with property lines for proper cuts."-Sunrise Guy

    I am still laughing with tears in my eyes on this one Guy! I repped you for it, you made my day!
     
  13. treevet

    treevet Banned

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    It seems quite certain your client new that there was going to be an issue because of prior history between. She/they should have told you about it.

    I have had droves of line squabbles over 40 years The worst one involved a gun nut that said had the quickest 3 kills in history of law enforcement in NYC. (?). Anyway he had a long access road to his horse farm. Neighbor would not let him cut. They stopped us as we were not informed. We left. He calls me to come back as he is a lawyer and he will take all the heat. I meet with him and he walks down the road and takes a wallet out of his pocket which has a hole in it and it is a relatively large caliber pistol in it and he starts shooting the trees he wants us to cut back. I had enough at this point and left again.

    Find out later, the lady came out and they had an exchange and she dies of a heart attack. No bull....Name was Myron Fass, Flemington, NJ. and it happened back in the mid 70's. His office called and said I would be subpoenaed but I never was. I am a lot more careful since then getting involved.
     
  14. Sunrise Guy

    Sunrise Guy Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Thanks, man. Just imagine if they did.:greenchainsaw:
     
  15. outofmytree

    outofmytree Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Man this happens a lot to us too!

    Geez treevet, you met a lawyer with a gun and ran away?? Darn good idea!

    Had a lawyer call me to fence line prune a fiddlewood last week. Told him that the tree would be best pruned from the neighbours side. I went to the neighbour who refused me entry to even look. I called the lawyer and told him the result and that I could not prune the ends of the branches as it was simply bad practise. He said he knows that but that he has a cowboy lined up (his own words!) and once done will throw the prunings over the fence... Some jobs you just gotta walk away from.
     
  16. Albert25

    Albert25 ArboristSite Lurker

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    re

    I think the state laws are different for different state and so that's why you contact any solicitor near you that will help you better that what to do and how to do without having any legal action against you.
     
  17. imagineero

    imagineero Addicted to ArboristSite

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    You've already had some good advice. It does vary by municipality, and the laws are often a bit weird. Where I work it's a bit of a grey area. You can legally trim anything back to the fenceline, but only within australian standards, only within the limits of the county tree preservation order, and only without entering the neighbors yard. Those three often conflict. You legally have to make a proper collar cut, or you're in breach of the tree preservation order and australian standards, but you generally have to enter the neighbors yard to do so, which means that you pretty much can't. You can generally only prune 10% of foliage here, so obviously you can't side up the whole tree just because it's over your side of the yard. The other weird law is that the branches/fruit are the property of the tree owner. Removing them from the site can be considered theft, but throwing them back over the fence is perfectly legal.

    All this is very easily avoided by just talking to the neighbor at the time of quoting. I don't ever believe anyone who tells me they got the neighbours ok. I just consider it to be good courtesy to ask the owner of any tree before performing work on it. Alarm bells start ringing for me when the client says 'oh, no need to ask them, its over my side of the fence'. I usually respond with something like 'Legally you don't have to ask, but you do have to live next to your neighbor. If you ask them they'll usually say yes. If you do it without permission they'll probably be angry. The tree belongs to them. How would you feel if your neighbor came over and painted the front of your house a different color while you were at work without asking you?'

    I often get extra work just by approaching the neighbor at the time of quoting, so it's win/win and all three of us end up happy. Showing some professionalism in front of the neighbor goes a long way to getting their consent, even if the two neighbors don't get on all that well. If they're not home, I just leave a flyer on their front door with a note saying that their neighbor would like me to prune their tree and could they please call back.

    I don't go as far as to get written permission, and I've never had a problem. I look people in the eye, shake their hand and take them at their word. They could turn around and cause trouble for me, but I think anybody who looks into my eyes knows that would be a mistake.

    Shaun
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2013

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