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Author Topic: Neighbor problems  (Read 2892 times)

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Offline UpInATree

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Neighbor problems
« on: December 21, 2016, 08:59:34 am »
A friend asked me for advice on this: 

She hired a tree service to trim along the perimeter of her property.  The branches were 20 feet long from trees belonging to the neighbor.  The homeowner asked the neighbor about trimming the branches off the trees which are over the property line.  The neighbor replied, "Do whatever you need to as long as you don't top the trees." 

The work was done, and now the neighbor has served legal papers to my friend seeking 85,000.00 in damages!  My friend has a voicemail message from this neighbor stating exactly what I quoted above.  Have any of you run into this before?  Any advice?  I said go to a lawyer.
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Offline ESFted

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2016, 11:05:37 am »
If you google 'legal precedent for cutting neighbor's trees' you will find some helpful information.  It probably depends on how your state laws are structured.  Most states let you cut branches up to the property line.  If your friend's tree guy went past the property line they might be trouble. Here in VA we have the right to protect our property from the neighbors trees if they are deemed dangerous.  This article mentions the "Massachusetts rule" on the second page.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/14/AR2007091401340.html

On the other hand when a hurricane blew one of my trees on a neighbors house, it was his insurance that bit the bullet.  I felt bad and payed his deductible.
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Offline jdonovan

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2016, 11:34:23 am »
if 85 grand, and the other side already has a lawyer involved, there is no other move but lawyer up.

your friend is getting a lawyer, then arm-chair advice from the 'net isn't worth much.

Laws vary quite a bit from state to state, so what may work for ESFted and me here in VA, may be flat wrong in Mass.

Offline jdonovan

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2016, 11:40:22 am »
Michalson v. Nutting , 275 Mass. 232 (1931)
The owner of a tree is not responsible for the damage its roots cause to neighboring property, but the neighbor's "right to cut off the intruding boughs and roots is well recognized."

is probably the most relevant case here that I can find.

Offline clearcut

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2016, 12:28:34 pm »
In most places, you are allowed to trim overhanging branches at the property line. If you have permission you can trim over the line to make the proper cuts. If your actions damage the trees, then you may be liable for that damage.

Some questions:
     Did the trees die or decline severely?
     How did the neighbor determine the value? There are formal methods to determine landscape tree value. You may need a certified arborist to determine the "loss".
     Were the trees over the line or do the trunks straddle the line?

Here is a page that describe some Massachusetts tree law.

     http://www.mass.gov/courts/case-legal-res/law-lib/laws-by-subj/about/trees.html

Good summary from the Nolo Press (self help legal books)

     http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/neighbor-tree-damage-46933.html

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Offline Ron Scott

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2016, 06:29:58 pm »
Ditto to the above advice and as clearcut stated. A certified arborist usually needs to do the damage assessment for any such legal actions regarding landscape tree damages. Seek out the services of a certified arborist familiar with urban and yard tree values and an attorney most familiar with the "tree laws" for your state.

It's good that your neighbor has the verbal documentation of the permission given by the neighbor to allow the tree trimming. Be sure to retain that for the record. Also obtain immediate photos of the trimming work. Before and after trimming if possible.

There certainly must have been some misunderstanding on the tree trimming work to encounter an $85,000 claim after the fact.
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Offline bucknwfl

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2016, 07:23:42 pm »
I have been involved in this situation many times and it will vary state to state. As a certified arborist trying to make proper cut along property lines can put you in a predicament. In our state that can certainly give you some advantage in explaining why you cut more. But it boils down to property right and permission in Florida and I like it in writing

Thanks

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Offline 4x4American

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2016, 07:30:22 pm »
Has the world gone mad???  This is ridiculous!!!  Drop that tree on the neighbors house when the neighbors are in it lol
Boy, back in my day..

Offline bill m

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2016, 08:09:06 pm »
If she is in Massachusetts she needs a lawyer and a licensed consulting arborist. A certified arborist can not give tree values. Also you can cut back to your property line as long as it is done according to good arborcultureal practices.
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Online LeeB

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2016, 10:43:04 pm »
Has the world gone mad???  This is ridiculous!!!  Drop that tree on the neighbors house when the neighbors are in it lol

The house didn't do anything.
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Offline 4x4American

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #10 on: December 21, 2016, 10:46:10 pm »
Neither did the tree  ;)
Boy, back in my day..

Offline Logger RK

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #11 on: December 22, 2016, 07:11:50 am »
Pictures of the Tree's would be good to see. I'm curious how this will turn out. I really like to see what kind of Tree  has that valve.

Offline Randy88

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #12 on: December 22, 2016, 07:51:24 am »
Tell your friend to go see a good attorney, but remember, almost every time two attorney's go to court, one looses, so they might be advised to go to several and get a consensus of legal opinions.    Every attorney has all the answers, but in the end they are wrong about 50 percent of the time and still have a job, something I try to remember every time I deal with an attorney.   

Offline CTYank

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2017, 05:50:46 pm »
Still waiting to see if there's any resolution to the situation. Maybe this thread is just a one-time drive-by?

I'd very much like to hear/see what sort of tree(s) have limbs worth $85K. Could understand Barbara Bach (Daisy Duke).
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Offline coxy

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #14 on: July 10, 2017, 05:00:34 pm »
 :D I cut all the trees along my line and my neighbors line it took him 3 weekends to figure out what was different the look on his face was price less but we get along good his wife well thats another story  ;D I planted lilacs for a border 

Offline MbfVA

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #15 on: July 27, 2017, 06:44:26 pm »
  I hope this won't be considered a thread hiJack, since it does involve a neighborhood, and several neighbors.  And, of course, a tree.

Interestingly considering the number of Virginians who made comments previously, it's between Charlottesville and Richmond Virginia on VA Rt 6.

 The tree you are about to see in photographs is dead.   Big pine tree right at the entrance, next to a road with 10,000 cars a day or more.

It is on one neighbor's property, but within the 15 feet of the centerline of the road covered by our road agreement.   They have no problem with it being taken down.

In fact I'm not totally sure it's not on state right of way.   I'll check on that tomorrow with VDOT and post an update, just thought of that.   ROW is 55 feet from the state highway centerline each way here.   That would be a great outcome, let them cut it.   I just want the tree if it'll be worth anything on my sawmill.  I'd like to get it with just a minimal body count, like zero.

Email neighborhood discussion on it began a week or so ago, covering only getting estimates for a professional to take it down. Somehow the discussion turned 180 to neighbors going out this Saturday to cut it down themselves, collectively.

I am concerned.

Rear view (sun kept the exposure off, so I turned it b&w & lightened it)

 

 

Front view
 

 

 My question, is this a widow maker tree  not to be messed with by anyone other than Paul Bunyan or a similar professional, or since it's leaning heavily, should it be pretty safe to fell?

It's the dead part that worries me, since limbs drop from dead trees without warning in my experience.

Don't worry, if you say it's totally safe, I won't tell them a word, but if some say danger danger I'll pass it along.

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Offline Ianab

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #16 on: July 27, 2017, 08:27:14 pm »
Problem is we can't inspect the tree, and don't know the experience level of the guy doing the cutting.

You are right that "dead" and "leaning" are both hazard signs, and so the tree needs a careful look over. Poke around the stump for signs of decay etc.

Now personally I'd probably take it down. Reasoning is the tree hasn't been dead long, as those smaller top twigs are still intact. Those tend to rot and fall off first, then the decay works it's way into the heavier branches. So large chunks of wood "shouldn't" drop on your head. And it looks to be clear to drop it in the direction of the lean, which is a good thing as dead wood is usually brittle, making your hinge more likely to snap off as the tree starts to fall. This isn't a big deal if you are trying to go with the lean, but it's bad if you are trying to steer it some place else.

BUT, if it's died from root decay from the bottom, and the stump is hollow, then that's a whole other "hazard". There may be little solid wood holding it up.

So I can't see the tree in person, and I have no idea what experience your neighbours have. If their idea of safety gear is sneakers and sunglasses, then I suggest you get someone in to at least drop the tree on the ground.
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Offline thecfarm

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #17 on: July 27, 2017, 09:00:29 pm »
Power lines?
Need people on each end to block off the road. Make sure they are 2-3 times distance that the tree is tall too.
I cut ALOT of dead trees. Most times I cut the stump high. Just feel I make myself less of a target,if something does fall.   :-\
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Offline coxy

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #18 on: July 27, 2017, 10:39:03 pm »
first are they good neighbors or bad if good tell them its to dangerous to cut   if bad tell to cut it  jmop 

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #19 on: July 28, 2017, 02:01:26 am »
Bad coxy, bad coxy.  dadgum you, Charlie!
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Offline coxy

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #20 on: July 28, 2017, 07:25:13 am »

Online TKehl

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #21 on: July 28, 2017, 07:52:01 am »
Is there anything on the other side of the road it could hit?  Powerlines, fences, etc.  If not it looks pretty straightforward unless the base is rotten.  Looks like it should clear the mailboxes. 

I'm not very familiar with pine, but if this were in my neck of the woods, I wouldn't call anyone either.  Make sure there are multiple clear exit paths (looks like there already are) and don't let anyone behind the tree in line with the direction of the fall. 

Side notes, I would probably drop that lower big lower limb before felling just because it's easier and then it's out of the way (unless it's aimed at the mailboxes).

Also, dead limbs can crack and fly when they impact the ground.  Keep watchers back a bit more than if it were green.
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Offline MbfVA

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #22 on: July 28, 2017, 08:12:20 am »
 I appreciate all the suggestions.  Coxy's  post reminds me of the executioner's song in the Mikado--There'd only some of them be missed.

Part of my concern about this comes from an accident my brother-in-law had on a farm he managed in eastern Virginia. He only bumped a tree not unlike this one with his tractor and wound up in the hospital with 10 or more broken bones in his left shoulder,  missed his head by a few inches.   Live trees I can almost figure out, but dead ones....
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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #23 on: July 28, 2017, 10:23:47 am »
Standing dead definitely progress faster with less notice.  We cut a lot of standing dead trees for firewood as it's already mostly seasoned on the stump.   ;D

If in doubt, we'll tie a chain or rope as high as we can, make an opening cut to "soften it up", vacate, then pull it over with the tractor.  Have a couple lightning struck oaks we need to do this to that have rotten cores for 15' with live wood on one half and nothing on the other half.   ;D

Only time I've ever had a close call was when I was being cocky.  Had a 12-14" oak snag (no limbs left) with a slight lean and probably 25-30' tall in a mixed age stand.  Since I knew exactly where it was going, I thought I would stand right by the stump and watch it fall for once.  (Normally I always vacate as soon as it's going over.)  DanG thing was rotten in the middle half way up, hit a 4" branch in another tree, broke in two, and the top half was coming right at me.  Did not have time to get out of the way.  Had just enough time to kill the saw and but got lucky and only ended up with a big bruise on my ankle and only from the bounce after it hit the ground.  Learned my lesson real well that day on the difference between confident and cocky.    ::)
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Offline coxy

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Re: Neighbor problems
« Reply #24 on: July 28, 2017, 01:20:06 pm »
know the feeling when I was about 19-20 I was working by self (so I thought ) cut a tree and it got snagged in a birch about 10-12in walked over under the snag and cut the birch every thing went fine till I got over to the skidder(we use a fiber glass driveway marker for a measuring stick)and my dad was standing there he hit me in the ars with that piece of fiber glass stick talk about sting I think I would have rather got hit by the tree we said a few words to one another but I never did that again cause I never new if he was going to be there watching  ;D