"Good fences make good neighbors" is an old saying that is certainly true, but it doesn't cover what hangs over those fences. Sprawling tree branches are frequently the cause for disputes among neighbors. If you are in the middle of such a situation, you need to understand how best to resolve the problem while protecting the tree.
Before you do anything with the overhanging tree branches, discuss the situation with your neighbors. First explain why the branches are a problem for you. Are they interfering with mowing your lawn or enjoying your yard? Are they in danger of falling into your yard and possibly harming you or your property? If you have a logical reason for cutting the branches, you may find your neighbors will not object to your plan.
Cutting the Limbs
With or without your neighbor's consent, you may legally trim the tree's branches up to the property line. If the tree trunk is in your neighbor's yard, she is the legal owner, but she cannot prevent you from trimming the branches that are clearly on your land. However, you must stay in your yard to do the trimming. Also, if you damage the tree, you may be liable for up to three times the tree's value. Since the average tree is worth $500 to $2,500, the cost of trimming may really hurt your finances. Unless you are a tree-cutting expert, you should hire a professional tree-cutting service to do this work.
Call the Experts
Proper tree-trimming requires skill and good timing. Amateurs often cut too close to the tree trunk and remove the tree collar, the bumpy area between the branch and the tree. Doing so actually "wounds" the tree and allows pests and disease to enter the trunk. Also, some trees should only be trimmed at certain times of the year. The hot summertime months are a bad time to prune west-facing trees because the branches are needed to shield the tree from the sun's strong rays.
You are perfectly within your rights when you trim overhanging branches from your neighbor's tree when necessary. When you do so, exercise extreme caution. Try and keep things friendly, because creating enemies next door can make life very difficult. Also, call in a professional company like All Around Landscape & Tree Service to trim the tree. They can get rid of the offending branches while protecting the health of the tree. If you try and trim them yourself, you may kill the neighbor's prize elm as well as the friendly spirit of the neighborhood.