Who Is A Coterminous Owner? (Hint: Do You Have Trees on Your Property?)

Property owners are probably most familiar with the understanding that if part of a neighbor's tree branches overhang their property, they have the right to remove those branches back to the property line, and may cut roots also if doing so does not damage the health of the tree.  But there could be more . . .
overhanging branches

An adjoining homeowner wanting to cut back a tree is advised to obtain the services of an arborist (tree professional) beforehand, in order to avoid any trespass issues (the saw goes over the fence line), and/or cutting correctly to avoid the appearance that too much of a branch was cut off (it can curl back) which could result in an award of double or triple damages in court.  And next, coterminous owners of a tree, meaning a tree trunk that straddles both properties so both owners own the tree, are subject to the following:
"Neither coterminous landowner may remove a tree on a property line without the other's consent, nor may either land owner cut away any part that extends onto his or her land if by so doing the landowner injures the common property interest in the tree. Each owner has an interest in the tree identical with the part that is on his or her land and has a right to demand that the owner of the other portion use his or her portion so as to "not unreasonably…injure or destroy the whole." (Scarborough v. Woodill, 7 CA 39 P. 383 (2d Dis. 1907)) (Anderson v. Weiland, 12 CA 2d 730 (1936)."
 Should leaves fall onto the adjoining neighbor's property which are seen as a problem, that owner must prove in court that the tree owner is causing a nuisance.  It might be easier to clean it up yourself.  An overhanging tree that might topple onto a house may also have to be taken to court, so an adjoining owner should first get photos and help from an expert.

Is your tree shading an adjoining neighbor who has solar panels? The 1978 California Solar Shade Control Act put limitations on shading during hours of maximum intensity, and according to California Association of Realtors legal experts, the property owner there first determines who has to cut back their trees or not.

Should an owner of an encroaching tree put his/her property on the market, the appropriate disclosures must be made to the incoming buyer, including any ongoing dispute with a neighbor.  Such a dispute could be a potential obstacle in the sale of the property for some buyers--and make no mistake, if a seller does not disclose the issue before close of escrow, the neighbor most certainly will. 

Some people are really not that upset about tree issues from their neighbor, but just watch Judge Judy and you will hear the exceptions.  Just being a good neighbor and keeping your tree trimmed can alleviate many future problems!

For more information about these disclosures, please contact me, I will be happy to forward the entire article.


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