Can you cut the roots on your neighbor's tree?


Can you cut the roots on your neighbor's tree? What about cutting the branches? Listen as Attorney Tom Olsen explains under what circumstances you can legally alter a neighbor's tree.


Gus: I have a neighbor and he has five huge oak trees in his front yard, and I live next door. I have pavers in my driveway, and his roots are coming over there, destroying my pavers. It cost me about 700 bucks every time they come and redo the pavers. He refuses to cut the trees.

Also, in the city of Cocoa Beach, years ago, they were going to remove all the trees on the easement between the sidewalk and the curve. There was one of those big oak trees. When they came, the homeowner said he didn't want to lose the tree, and they let him get away with it. Now, what do I do, contact the city or do I get a lawyer?

Attorney Tom Olsen: Gus, first of all, that tree that's on the easement, that's a city of county's tree for them to do it as they please. Nothing has been done wrong there. But the trees that are uprooting your pavers, are those sitting on your neighbor's property or on the easement?

Gus: No, they're on the neighbor's property.

Attorney Tom Olsen: Okay, so Gus [crosstalk]--

Gus: It funny. It's going about 70 feet. He has five huge trees.

Attorney Tom Olsen: All right, Gus, your property lines go down to the center of the earth and go up into space. When his tree roots are coming over on to your property and destroying your pavers, your neighbor is not obligated to come over there and cut those tree roots, because those tree roots are on your property. That means it's up to you to cut those tree roots if you want to, and you are allowed to do so as long as you don't go over to your neighbor's property, and as long as you do it with reasonableness.

That's the same thing about trimming the branches on that tree, Gus.

So you, if you want something done about this and you need to talk to an arborist or tree person, and see if you cut these roots, is that reasonable? Will the tree continue to live? Then, you can replace your pavers maybe once and for all, or at least good for the next 10 years. Now, that caller's texting and saying, "What happens if the tree dies?" Well, if you cut the roots to that degree and the tree dies, then you, my caller, you are liable to your neighbor for killing his tree. Yes, and those damages might very well be the cost to cut it down, but it might very well be the cost to put up a light tree.

Chrissy: Which is why you suggested to get a professional?

Attorney Tom Olsen: Yes.

Chrissy: Because if a professional comes in, they would be able to quickly determine what could be cut and still make sure that the tree will stay alive?

Attorney Tom Olsen: Yes, I agree.