Question: I have a row of pine trees growing along my property. My neighbor’s pool sits about fifteen feet from our property line. He claims that the fallen needles from my pine trees have ruined his pool filter. I have pruned the branches on both sides of the line, leaving none hanging over his property. He still insists that I downsize these trees. His attorney sent a letter requesting that I trim back these trees. He claimed that New York State law prevents me from interfering with my neighbor’s “quiet time” of his property’. What can I do?
Answer: Let’s review some basics on trees and the law. You have an obligation to remove known hazards, but not to remove healthy trees. If you know or an expert tells you that your trees pose a threat due to disease, weakness of the roots and so on, then you have an obligation to remove them. You would also bear the liability for any damage those known hazards caused.
Your neighbor has a right to remove any object extending from your property onto or over his property. If the branches from your trees overhang his property, he has the right to trim those branches.
From what you describe, the trees in question pose no obvious or known threat. You have also trimmed the branches so no branches overhang onto your neighbor’s property. Nonetheless, your neighbor objects to the presence of the pine trees and has gotten an attorney to write a threatening letter. Based on what you have described, your neighbor has no cause of action. The trees are healthy and entirely on your property. Pine needles may scatter, but that is a natural occurrence.
Let me offer some examples that might illuminate this situation. Suppose your trees grew to an enormous height and in the late afternoon cast a shadow on your neighbor’s property. Barring some very specific local law that limited tree heights, your neighbor would not have a cause of action to force you to remove or trim the trees. Likewise, there may be other trees whose leaves fall (leaves do that) and wind up in your neighbor’s pool. He has no right to ask to pull down all trees in the environs.
A conflict with a neighbor is always difficult. It is unfortunate that you have a disagreement, but as far as I can see, your neighbor has no legal grounds on which to force you to further trim or remove these trees.
What should you do? Since you received a letter, you might want to respond in writing. Tell your neighbor that you received the lawyer’s letter. You can tell your neighbor that you have carefully considered his letter (always a polite thing to do). You could suggest that you will keep the trees appropriately trimmed. Nonetheless, your neighbor has no grounds to require the removal or dramatic trimming of the trees. You could suggest that your neighbor place a strainer near his pool filter to prevent the pine needles from getting into his filter.
I share these thoughts with a caveat that I have not investigated your case and would need to know more to offer you legal advice. If in doubt, you may want to consider consulting with a local attorney. Let me know if you need help retaining an attorney.
I hope you found this information helpful. I practice personal injury law in the New York metropolitan area. I will be glad to answer your questions and assist you. You can call me at 1-800-660-1466 or email me. You can also visit my website or read more on my blog, New York Law Thoughts.
Carol L. Schlitt
New York Personal Injury Attorney
This material is intended for informational uses only. It is not meant as legal advice. To receive legal advice, you should consult an attorney.