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Landowners: Use Prudence When Pruning Trees

05.13.09 written by

Now that summer is approaching, everyone is sharpening their tools to start trimming their hedges and pruning trees. However, landowners need to be aware of some of the limitations when trimming or cutting trees near or on their neighbor’s land. Ohio Revised Code §901.51 provides:

No person, without privilege to do so, shall recklessly cut down, destroy, girdle, or otherwise injure a vine, bush, shrub, sapling, tree or crop standing or growing on the land another or upon public land. 

A violation of the above statute allows the injured landowner to recover three times the amount of his or her actual damages. Therefore, landowners should exercise extreme caution before trimming plants and trees abutting a neighbor’s land. 
In ALH Properties, PLL v. ProCare Automotive Service, Solutions, LLC, Summit App. No. 20991, ProCare automotive repair facility trimmed branches of several spruce trees located on a neighbors land. The trees were overhanging onto ProCare’s property causing sap to drip on the cars and limited its parking. ProCare thought the trees were on its property as it had previously trimmed the branches and placed mulch around the trees for several years without issue. ProCare cut branches overhanging its property as well as branches not on its property. At trial, ProCare was found to have violated R.C. §901.51 and was required to pay a total of $34,200 for the improper trimming of the spruce trees.

Even though landowners maintain a right to trim tree branches overhanging onto their property, they must ensure they do not trim branches that are not on their property as the mistake could be costly. There are numerous cases of landowners cutting down trees they thought were on their property, only to learn that they were 10 feet away from the actual property line. To prevent these types of errors, it is always best to obtain the services of a licensed surveyor to mark the property lines. 
Additionally, even when trimming trees on your property you must do so in a reasonable manner and ensure that you do not damage any portion of the tree on the adjoining landowner’s property. The best way to avoid liability is to simply speak to your neighbor and seek permission to trim the trees. Be sure to discuss how you will trim the trees and what branches you intend to cut.

NOTE: This general summary of the law should not be used to solve individual problems since slight changes in the fact situation may require a material variance in the applicable legal advice.