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What can you do about your neighbor's obnoxious tree?

Trees are beautiful and serve as a cornerstone for all life by capturing CO2 and producing clean oxygen. From a homeowner's perspective, trees provide shade during the hot summer, beauty year-round and curb appeal when you want to sell. Trees can also provide practical items, such as nuts or fruit. You may also want to grow a tree for its flowers or showy foliage in the fall.

Unfortunately, a tree planted on one person's property can quickly become someone else's problem. If your neighbor doesn't properly maintain their trees, you may already be painfully aware of how obnoxious a poorly maintained tree can be. Maybe it spits sap or drops leaves into your yard. If it produces fruits or nuts that you don't want, those can also be very obnoxious.

In some cases, the leaves of the tree may prevent you from enjoying the sunshine in your yard. The shade or roots could kill your garden. Those roots could also infiltrate your plumbing or septic system. Thankfully, you have rights as a homeowner if your neighbor's tree has become a nuisance.

In the case of shade and leafy incursion, you have the right to trim

Whether the tree is squarely on your neighbor's property or right against the boundary of your property and theirs, any part that grows over onto your property can affect your life. Virginia lawmakers understood how a tree could impact a property's use, so they provide remedies for homeowners annoyed by their neighbor's trees.

You or a company you hire can trim the tree branches that hang over your property. However, it must be done in a professional and safe manner that does not kill the tree in question. You can also dig down and cut back the roots that have grown into your property. While you can simply assert this right, it is often in your best interest to discuss your intentions with your neighbor beforehand.

Technically, you have to perform the labor or incur the cost of tree services yourself, but your neighbor may offer help or financial assistance if you discuss the situation with them.

You can take legal action if their tree damages your house

Sometimes, a tree is more than a minor nuisance. Their roots and branches can cause substantial damage to a property. Did a branch break off during a storm and fall onto your garage, damaging the roof and wall? Did the roots of a tree grow down into your plumbing or septic system, causing expensive damage?

In scenarios like that, you will likely be able to bring a claim against your neighbor for the cost of the damage. Many homeowners' policies will cover damage caused by trees. In the event that they do not, you may be able to file a civil lawsuit to recoup the losses related to the tree.

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