The roots of trees that grow from one yard into a neighbor’s yard have been a point of contention for many neighbors. The roots can damage fences, patios, foul sewer lines, etc. But can you just cut back any roots that wind up on your side of the fence? Maybe, or maybe not.
There was an old court case that ruled that homeowners have an “absolute right” to cut back any roots that encroach on their property from a neighbor’s tree, no matter what happens to the tree. Many people think this is the law of the land. But there was another case in 1994 that ruled differently. It said that a homeowner does have the right to manage their land HOWEVER that is tempered by the burden of making reasonable allowances for the health of the neighbor’s tree. So, you have rights, but they can’t infringe on the rights of others.
So, this means it’s a gray area, and it depends on the circumstances. Let’s say your neighbor’s tree is healthy and located in the middle of their yard and it sends out one long rogue root that is about to cause damage to your expensive pool decking. You could probably trim it back as long as it does no damage to the tree. Now let’s say it’s a “Heritage”’ oak tree that’s quite old but it’s the center of attention for their back yard. Maybe a lot of the roots are on your side but they aren’t harming anything in your yard, but you cut them all off just out of spite and the tree dies because it is so old. You could find yourself on the losing end of a court battle.
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