Legality – Overhanging Trees

Q: A Bradford pear tree, located just over the property line on our neighbors’ property, has grown quite large, dropping fruit and seasonal debris on our cars and driveway. It overhangs our entire driveway where our cars are parked and is growing towards our garage roof. The tree has almost doubled in size in the past two years. Arborists say it can be pruned yearly but that it is in danger of falling over. What are our legal rights if it does fall and damage our cars and property?

A: A lawyer friend tells me he can’t give specific advice without seeing the situation, but in general terms you may trim or prune the overhanging branches back to the property line so long as doing so does not kill the tree. Second, it would be good practice to formally notify your neighbor by certified mail, return receipt requested, that you are putting them on notice that you will hold them responsible for any damage to your car(s) or other property from falling limbs and fruit. Unfortunately, this is probably not the answer you were looking for, but there’s not much you can do when neighbors are unreasonable. I suggest that you take pictures at the time you send the letter and before pruning the tree.