Good neighbors’ relations can get easily tainted over an issue regarding the property line and the fences or trees planted alongside it. It feels like there is always a grey area left for individual interpretation when it comes to the proximity of plants and fences to the border between two properties.
Trees and hedges can be planted close to or on the property line if your neighbor agrees with it. However, if you don’t have their consent, you must plant the trees or hedges away from the border, in such a way that the plants don’t interrupt nor endanger your neighbor in any way.
Different countries have different legislation regulating this matter, so you might want to check those before you decide to plant something on your property. Although, there are some universal guidelines you can follow, which are thoroughly explained in this article.
How Close to the Property Line Can You Plant a Tree?
If you have decided to enrich your backyard by planting a tree, the location where you wish to plant it needs to be determined strategically. Sometimes, people are worried about whether or not their tree, or that of their neighbor, is too close to their fence.
Tree branches that are hanging over your fence from your neighbor’s yard can be really annoying, especially if the trees are growing uncontrollably and are not being taken care of. When you plant a tree, you need to take responsibility for it and cut the branches on time.
When deciding where to plant your tree, be mindful of your surroundings. Always check if it is going to interfere with the neighboring area in any way. Although it will take several years for the tree to be fully grown, consider whether or not it is going to block the sun for your neighbor.
If the tree is likely to block the sun from your neighbor or you, you need to reconsider its location. Unfortunately, narrow parcels make it hard to plant a tree away from a fence.
Although many people believe the easiest way is to consult with the law, Canada and the U.S. are not actually regulating this matter via official channels. The only thing stated by the government is that you have to act as a good neighbor.
The definition of a good neighbor is left open to everyone’s interpretation, so you cannot rely on the law to protect you if your neighbor has something against the position of your newly planted tree.
On the other hand, in countries like the UK, this issue is covered by a law that clearly states which shared responsibilities people have if the plant is on or close to the property line.
Trees are beautiful, provide us and the wildlife with shade, and protect us against the harsh sun and rain. But just like humans, trees grow old and die. When your tree starts to show signs of decay, it may be time to remove it as it can cause you personal harm and property damage. The question is, can you remove a tree from your backyard? Read our article to find out.
Planting the Tree on the Property Line
If you and your neighbor don’t have a fence on the border between your two properties, you are not allowed to plant the tree right on the property line. The only case that would allow you to do so is if you have consent from your neighbor.
If you don’t possess such a written attestation, planting a tree on the property line would be considered trespassing, since the tree will eventually grow on both sides of the line.
You must be ready to bear the consequences if you decide to neglect this advice and plant the tree on the property line anyway. In such a case, your neighbor has the right to sue you and demand the tree’s removal.
The cost for the removal will fully fall to you since you were the one who unilaterally decided to plant the tree there in the first place. Bear in mind that different local authorities have different regulations for this kind of situation, so make sure to check yours before proceeding.
However, if you and your neighbor bought properties with already existing trees on the property line, then the cost of the removal should be split between you two. In any other case, the side who made the “damages” bears the costs on its own.
If you both decide to keep the tree, then you are both considered the owners of the tree, meaning you will share equal rights and obligations regarding it. If you decide to cut the tree but your neighbor disagrees, you are not allowed to cut it and have to come to an agreement.
If you make a sale or profit from the tree in any way, you are required to split the money with your neighbor. Also, keep in mind that you are only allowed to trim and cut the branches on your side of the property. You are not allowed to trim the tree on your neighbor’s side unless they agree with you doing so.
Can You Throw Your Neighbor’s Branches Back?
If your neighbor has a tree with branches that are crossing to your side of the fence, you have the right to cut the branches, under one condition — if the tree is not under government protection.
Indeed, certain trees and plants are protected since they are of great value for our nature and sustainability, so you need to get a permit to cut or trim those. If this is the case with your neighboring tree, make sure not to do anything without a permit, as taking action without a permit would be considered breaking the law, and you would probably bear some consequences. To avoid this, simply consult your neighbor and local authorities.
On the other hand, if you want to completely cut down the tree, you are not allowed to do so since the roots are not within your property lines. You are only allowed to trim the overlapping branches.
Can You Ask Your Neighbor to Cut Their Tree?
If the tree is interfering with your view, you find it very aesthetically unpleasing, or you are annoyed with the branches that are constantly overlapping onto your property, you have no right to ask your neighbor to cut the tree.
You can ask them politely, but they are not obliged to listen to your request and cut the tree, even if it is blocking your view. If the tree is not fundamentally dangerous to you, then you cannot do anything about it.
However, if the tree is casting shadows or if the roots are causing substantial damages to your property or pathways, you have the right to ask your neighbor to cut it down.
Local authorities will not interfere in this kind of conflict unless the tree is dangerous to the open public, e.g. if the tree is poisonous or is interfering with the visibility at an intersection or on public streets.
We advise you to try sorting everything out with your neighbor. A nice conversation can take you a long way. Including a third party in the conflict is not the best option. They might solve the issue and order your neighbor to cut their tree, but you will be left with bad relations with them.
If you want to improve the overall look and functionality of your garden or yard, you should consider landscaping. One thing that you should know about this process, though, is that it can be extremely pricy. Why is landscaping so expensive? Read our article to find out.
Can You Plant Hedges on the Property Line?
Hedges are a very popular alternative to trees when you are looking for an easy and appealing way to create a privacy boundary between your and your neighbor’s property. The biggest mistake people tend to make with hedges is to look at them as a fence.
Indeed, a hedge is not a fence but a living plant that grows and needs to be maintained over time. Meanwhile, a fence is a cheap solution you install and do not have to worry about it in the future.
On the other hand, a hedge tends to grow in height and width, so it needs to be properly maintained and pruned since it is a plant. Thinking of a hedge as a fence will lead you to make a big mistake, that of planting the hedge exactly on the property line.
The issue with this is the same as with planting a tree on the property line. The hedge will grow in width into your neighbor’s lot and cause problems if the neighbor hasn’t agreed with you planting the hedge in the first place.
To avoid this issue, the best solution is to plant the hedge a little bit further from your side of the property line. In this way, you should leave enough space to be able to go to the other side of the hedge and trim it down, so it doesn’t grow uncontrollably into your neighbor’s property.
However, if you and your neighbor both decide you would like to have a hedge, you can build it on the property line. In this case, make sure to sign a written agreement in which you state your rights and obligations, to avoid any conflict in the future.
The best idea is to make a deal on who will take on the cost of fertilization and prune the hedge, and agree on the style of the hedge, as all these are areas can generate conflicts in the future.
Your cost estimation may be different from that of your neighbor’s, in which case you may have a hard time agreeing on the amount you should spend (and split) on maintenance. That is why it is best to define this with a written agreement so that only one side is in charge of the costs.
This doesn’t mean that the other side gets away without paying nor taking care of the hedge, but rather that you will have to create a model where both sides have equal duties that can be compensated in different ways.
For example, you may be in charge of the costs of fertilization, but your neighbor may be in charge of the logistics, organizing the transport of fertilizer, and hiring workers to do the job if the hedge is too long for them to do it alone.
The most important thing about this agreement is that it can be bound to the property itself, meaning that if your neighbor moves tomorrow and someone new comes in, the obligations and rights will be transferred to the new owner. If they are not okay with the agreement, then it can be renegotiated accordingly.
What Is the Legal Height of a Neighbors’ Hedge?
A hedge is considered to be high if it is over 6 ½ ft. (2m) tall. In case you are facing an issue with the neighbor’s hedge that is over this height, most countries have procedures that allow you to make an official complaint.
The first step is always to talk to your neighbor and try to sort everything out. The last resort is talking to the authorities as issues like these are a very sensitive matter.
In general, you are allowed to trim down the hedge that is growing on your side of the boundary. However, if you overextend the course of your actions, and trim into the neighbor’s part of the hedge, you might end up in trouble as it is considered trespassing and destroying a neighbor’s property, so they are in their full right to take legal actions against you if they feel like it.
If you tried to solve this issue reasonably, try to hold a copy of every written conversation you had with your neighbor, so you can prove to the authorities that you have made some efforts to resolve the issue.
Once you file a complaint, you will also have to pay a fee, which can range between $200 and $500 depending on your location. The authorities will take your complaint and arrange an official conversation with you and your neighbor.
Although 6 ½ ft. is considered to be the cut-off point for the height of the hedge, it is not necessarily the height for the hedge to be reduced to. The final height will be decided after all the factors from the location are taken into consideration.
If your primary cause of complaint is the blockage of the natural light due to the extreme height of the hedge, the authorities will very likely give you a positive response and ask your neighbor to trim down the hedge.
However, the authorities will not guarantee you will have an uninterrupted source of light after the hedge is trimmed. Yes, your property will probably get more light, but it depends on many other factors, and not exclusively on the hedge’s height.
Also, if the hedge is located on a slope that is overbearing to your side, your complaint will likely stand on solid ground. People often tend to say that the hedge is blocking their view, hence why they want it removed.
Although logic can be found in this, it is rather unlikely that the authorities will consider it. If that is your only argument, it won’t count as enough reasons to justify the need for cutting down the hedge.
If you want to improve the overall appearance of your yard, you should consider landscaping. While this process typically costs a lot of money, there are some things that you can do to lessen your expenses. Read our article to find out how to cut down the cost of landscaping.
How Close to a Property Line Can You Build a Fence?
How close to the property line you can build a fence has been highly regulated throughout history. It is one of the oldest issues that has been regulated with law. Nowadays, countries and cities tend to have very different laws on this matter, so it is always best to check the regulations in your area before proceeding with anything.
Typically, fences are installed from 2 to 8 inches (8 to 20cm) away from the property lines. The fence also has a height limitation, usually around 6 feet (1.82m) for the sides and backyard, and 4 feet (1.21m) for front yard fences.
In the case you have discussed and agreed with your neighbor on building a fence directly on the property line, you may proceed with this option too. In this event, you can both agree on the style and share the cost involved with installing the fence.
None of you has the right to unilaterally decide to place the fence on the border before consulting the other party. If one side initiates the project, the other one is most likely entitled to pay for half of the costs.
In most countries and cities, like in Washington state, the law states that a shared fence installed on the property line belongs to both parties and that they are both obliged to share the costs related to the fence.
Also, keep in mind that some types of fences are not allowed to be installed, for instance, a barbed wire or electrified fence. Beyond that, you can experiment with anything you like and even build a concrete wall if you are feeling like it.
Also, building a 20-foot fence inside your property, away from the border, is considered a breach of law, so try to avoid doing this. Otherwise, your neighbor may easily file a complaint, and all the money invested in the fence would go to waste.