Tree ownership provides plenty of benefits to your property, but they are also often the cause of neighbourly disputes. Trees that grow near property lines can lead to arguments over leaves, branches, root growth, and potential damage. Knowing what you’re responsible for, what your neighbour is responsible for, and the by-laws that protect trees in the city of London can make it easier to care for trees and prevent disputes from getting out of hand.
Tree Ownership: What You’re Responsible For
Any part of your tree that grows into someone else’s yard, be it branches or roots, is your responsibility. You have to maintain that tree If you own a tree that overhangs into a neighbour’s property, you are legally responsible if the branches cause damage or injury. If your tree falls onto another person’s property, they can make you reimburse them the costs of damages and the removal of the tree.
A tree with a base directly on the property line is common property and must be maintained by both neighbours. Trees in this situation are “governed” by boundary tree law and the Ontario Forestry Act, and one homeowner cannot destroy or injure the tree without the consent of the other. Good pruning, tree inspections, and discussions with your neighbour are essential to keeping everyone safe and happy!
This being said, you have your own rights when trees owned by neighbours encroach onto your yard. You can remove branches and roots that grow into your yard without the tree owner’s consent, so long as you don’t enter their yard when removing them. However, if this kills the tree, your neighbour can bring a lawsuit against you for damages. This makes professional expertise essential!
Municipal Boundary Tree Law
Before doing anything, make sure work is done according to local by-laws. For Londoners, if the tree is classified as a Distinctive Tree (more than 50 centimetres wide and 1.4 metres above ground) or lies in a Tree Protection Area (an area highlighted by the City as having lots of canopy cover), a permit is required before you can destroy or “injure” a tree, even if it’s on private property. Permits are issued at the discretion of City Planner and can be refused.
You do not require a permit for routine tree maintenance, however. According to the City, trimming and pruning does not require approval if “carried out in accordance with good arboricultural practices.” Also, while a permit would still be required, a fee would not be levied for the removal of trees the City agrees are hazardous or dead.
When planting new trees, keep in mind the space they’ll need to grow. Try to keep the entire tree, from roots to canopy, completely on your own property. It’ll make everyone happy and make sure you’re protected from accidents and unexpected breakages. If you’re currently dealing with a tree that overhangs onto another property, or your own property has a tree encroaching on it, take responsibility, know your rights, and try to be as courteous as possible. It’ll make the whole process, and your relationship with your neighbour, as healthy as possible! Contact us if you want more information about the trees on your property.