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Tree-based disputes between neighbors

As a Washington homeowner, you probably have trees on your land, and your neighbors likely have trees as well. While trees are often an enhancement to property, they can also lead to disputes between neighbors for a variety of reasons.

Issues arising between neighbors can lead to disputes and can even result in real estate litigation. Knowing both your responsibilities for your own trees and your rights connected with your neighbors’ trees is important.

Trees causing falling damage

One of the most common causes of tree-based property disputes is when a tree is growing at the edge one neighbor’s property but protrudes over into another neighbor’s space.

Where ever the tree’s base grows is generally considered the owner of the tree. But if a tree extends into your property, you are allowed to trim or prune it. However, keep in mind that if you damage or kill that tree, you may be liable for damages.

When it comes to a tree or tree limb falling and doing damage or injury to a neighbor, the most important determination is whether the tree’s owner made an effort to mitigate the risk and maintain their tree. A poorly maintained tree with dead limbs falling into a neighbor’s yard can expose the tree owner to liability.

Trees and views

A property’s view is often a major factor in its value. As such, trees that obstruct a scenic view are typically covered in local ordinances. Generally, if a tree is obstructing a view, the neighbor is required to ask the owner to trim or remove it. If the owner refuses, the complaining neighbor may have legal recourse.

Keep in mind that, in addition to local regulations, homeowners associations may have their own rules governing how trees may or may not obstruct views. These will also apply to any disputed situation.

Trees have the potential to create problems between neighbors, especially when they grow at or near the border of two properties. Having a clear picture of what is and isn’t legal will help you navigate any such disputes you find yourself in.