Your Trees and Your Neighbors’ Trees

Meyerland, as a mature neighborhood, has mature and beautiful trees! That is one of the things we love about our neighborhood!

But, beautiful, tall trees can encroach on a neighbor’s property or cause a problem. We have received several questions about neighbor’s trees and who is responsible for a tree and its branches. Under Texas law, there are a few facts you should know (see additional resources here):

  • If the trunk of the tree is 100% on your property, then you own the tree. Similarly, if it is 100% on the neighbor’s yard, then the tree is the neighbor’s tree.
  • If the trunk stands partly on the land of two or more people, it is called a boundary tree, and in most cases it belongs to all the property owners on the boundary.
    1. All the owners are responsible for caring for the tree, and one co-owner may not remove a healthy tree without the other owners’ permission.
    2. As for who owns any fruit from the tree, however, that’s another matter.
  • Can I trim the branches of the neighbor’s tree that hang over my yard?
    1. You have the legal right to trim tree branches up to the property line.
    2. But you may not go onto the neighbor’s property or destroy the tree itself.
    3. In almost every state, a person who intentionally injures someone else’s tree is liable to the owner for two or three times the amount of actual monetary loss.
  • What if my neighbor’s tree is unhealthy, I complain to the neighbor, and they refuse to remove the tree?
    1. You can trim back branches to your property line, but that might not solve the problem if you’re worried about the whole tree coming down on your house or car.
    2. If the tree later falls and damages your property, then you have the right to seek compensation for the damage from the homeowner or their insurance company.
    3. Be sure to document the status of the tree and communications with the neighbors, if you complain.
  • If a seemingly healthy tree falls over onto your property, that may be considered an “act of God” and the owner may not be liable. There is a good article in the Houston Chronicle about this, here.
  • Keep in mind that the trees planted between the sidewalk and the street are on the City of Houston’s property and are technically their trees. Read more about this topic here.

Please be thoughtful and care for your trees – they help the environment, provide needed shade and are beautiful! If a neighbor is concerned about your tree’s branches hanging over their property, please consider hiring a tree trimmer to trim it back. Otherwise, they may have it chopped back to the property line, which is their right under Texas law (so long as they do not significantly damage or kill the tree).

Meyerland typically does not get involved in disputes between neighbors on issues like trees. Please be friendly and talk with your neighbor about any concerns you have about their trees.