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Neighbor Law: A Beginner's Guide

Legal Disputes Concerning Trees

It is said that good fences make for good neighbors. The same might not be said for trees, which are a frequent source of litigation among neighbors. Overgrown branches, fallen leaves, and downed trees all serve to embroil neighbors in acrimonious litigation. This page will provide you with some background and provide resources that can help answer your questions about disputes among neighbors concerning trees.

Black and white photograph of fallen tree on the White House North Drive

Harris & Ewing, photographer. STORM DAMAGE. FALLEN TREE ON WHITE HOUSE NORTH DRIVE.Created between 1913 and 1918. Harris & Ewing Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

As you might note when you begin your research in this area, much of the law concerning one’s responsibility for trees can be found at the state and local levels. These state and municipal codes and regulations can clarify a multitude of situations, such as: (1) what kind and how many trees a landowner can plant on their property; (2) whether, when, and how an owner can remove trees from their property; (3) when a tree is owned by a landowner or the government; and (4) who is responsible when the branches, leaves, fruits, nuts, or seeds of a tree cause damage on one piece of property when its roots are on another piece of property, among many others. The Law Library of Congress provides, through our Guide to Law Online page, links to the statute collections provided by each state. In addition, if you need any assistance in finding your local municipal codes and ordinances, review our research guide, “Municipal Codes: A Beginner’s Guide.


Resources Referenced

Considering the frequency with which tree issues might crop up in everyday life, it might not be too surprising that there are a collection of books on the topic of tree and neighbor law in the United States. Some of these books focus particularly on the tree law of a certain state. However, there are some resources in our catalog that take a nationwide approach:

To see if there are any tree and neighbor law resources regarding the laws in your state, consider doing a subject search in WorldCat External for subjects like: “Trees–Law and Legislation,” “Trees–Law and legislation–[State Name],” “Trees in cities–Law and legislation–[State Name],” and “Adjoining landowners–[State Name].”