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Leaf It Alone

by Shane M. Rohrbaugh, Esquire

If a neighbor wishes to trim an adjacent owner’s tree (branches, limbs, or roots) without seeking court involvement, the neighbor is permitted to do so, but only up to the property line that the tree has crossed.  However, if someone uses self-help and trims a neighbor’s tree, that person is only permitted to trim what is necessary and cannot remove the entire tree.  Also, while Pennsylvania courts allow a property owner to use self-help, the courts prefer that the property owner contact the neighbor to request the neighbor to take action regarding the encroaching tree.  However, if the tree (branches, limbs, or roots) impose an immediate problem, and the property owner cannot call on his neighbor before injury occurs to real or personal property, or to a person, the property owner may exercise self-help to the extent required to protect his or her interests.  Lastly, a property owner is generally not liable to a neighbor for trimming a neighbor’s tree, even if the neighbor’s tree dies.

Essentially, it boils down to this: a property owner is permitted to use self-help when absolutely necessary, but the courts prefer that landowners attempt to amicable resolve issues before arbitrarily trimming trees.