March 9, 2015

In New York what happens when a tree trunk straddles a property boundary?  Perhaps surprisingly, this is a relatively common occurrence in Westchester and Putnam Counties.

First, determining precisely where the tree trunk lies vis a vis the property boundary is not always as obvious as it may seem.  Trees grow, stone walls may be moved and deed descriptions are not always as clearly drafted as they should be.  Respectfully, the only way to determine whether a tree straddles a property boundary is to have a New York State licensed surveyor perform a boundary survey.

Assuming that a surveyor confirms that a tree in fact straddles a property boundary, interesting legal issues arise as to the nature of adjoining property owners’ rights and obligations.  For example, who is responsible for maintaining and pruning the tree?  In the event that the tree is dead and requires removal for safety reasons adjoining property owners often agree to share the cost.  However, insurance and indemnification issues may arise.  In the event that adjoining property owners cannot agree on terms, nuisance and trespass issues may arise.

Layered on top of all of these private property issues are local government/municipal regulations pertaining to tree maintenance and removal.  In Westchester County, New York, for example, many municipalities require a tree permit before removing a specimen tree or tree which exceeds a certain diameter at breast height.  Failure to obtain a tree permit can lead to fines and in extreme cases, even jail time.

To speak with an experienced real estate attorney about tree issues in New York, please call us at (914) 338-8050 or send an e-mail to keith@betenskylaw.com.  For more information about the firm, please visit www.betenskylaw.com.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article.  We hope it was informative and useful to you.