Serpico Landscaping has on-staff, certified arborists on its Tree Care division and sometimes tree disputes do happen at HOas and other properties we maintain. While we often deal with truck height clearance issues and detailed pruning for trees, the topic of tree disputes can occur — which is a whole different matter for stakeholders of any property.
Serpico’s Tree Care team has the gear, experience and ability to remove trees in tight spaces — close to buildings or other structures — but we do not remove trees without careful thought and understanding of what is legal in the state of California…especially if a tree is in a homeowner or property dispute.
This article by attorney Tom Feir, as published by Educational Community for Homeowners sheds light on a sometimes touchy subject:
William Blake once wrote, “Everybody does not see alike . . . the tree which brings some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.” He couldn’t have been more right. Trees are constantly debated in communities: some people can’t get enough of their beauty, environment, color, and shade; others can’t stand their dropped leaves, lumpy roots, and view-blocking canopies.
With an entire community’s worth of opinions up in the air, it’s hard to determine who’s right and who’s wrong. Which trees should stay and which have to go? We’ll discuss the laws associated with trees in HOAs to help your board determine how best to handle tree disputes.
What Does the Law Have to Say About Tree Disputes?
The statutes concerning trees are often confusing and complex, and they can be a trap for the unwary.
First, the board must ask itself: Who owns what? Civil Code Section 833 states that trees whose trunks stand wholly upon the land of one owner belong exclusively to him, even if their roots grow into the land of another. Civil Code Section 834 says that trees whose trunks stand partly on the land of two or more owners belong to them in common.
Second, watch out for damages for injury to trees—there are two statutes that can either double or triple damages for injuries to trees or timber on the land of another. If you are found liable for a wrongful act that involves cutting down, removing, girdling or doing anything that would injure a tree, the damages can be multiplied depending upon which statute you are sued under (Civil Code Section 3346 (link is external) or Code of Civil Procedure Section 733 (link is external)).
When Is a Tree a Nuisance?
Trees whose branches or roots encroach over or on the land of another may constitute a nuisance. The owner of the land encroached upon may abate the nuisance by cutting off the overhanging branches or destroying the encroaching roots. However, there is a duty to act reasonably, and there is no absolute right to sever tree roots from a neighbor’s tree. In abating the nuisance, without court action, the…(Learn More)