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JD, Lawyer
Category: Legal
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Experience:  Over 11 years in practice as a litigator ... civil and criminal
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We live in NJ. Our neighbor has several silver maple trees

Resolved Question:

We live in NJ. Our neighbor has several silver maple trees close to our property line. The roots from these trees are rapidly spreading on to our property. They are large surface roots that are nearing the foundation of our home and we are concerned about damage being done to the foundation. In addition, many of these roots are several inches out of the ground and are a major tripping hazard. We live on a small lake and many people use our property to access the lake. We are concerned as well about the liability of someone getting hurt on our property because of these roots. We have attempted for over two years to get the property owner to take down the trees. We even offered to help pay some of the costs. They have refused to do anything about the trees. Are we within our rights to remove the roots on our property, even though it may weaken the trees and cause them to fall and do damage to their property? If not, what other options do we have?
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  JD replied 6 years ago.

While New Jersey courts have upheld a landowner's right to use self help to trim encroaching limbs to the property line, the courts have not addressed self help in a root situation. While self help may or may not be available, the courts have upheld damages against property owners who permit their trees to encroach and damage a neighboring property. There may be a different standard concerning roots since the tree owner in many situations may not have any notice that the roots are encroaching the neighbor property, but in your situation the neighbor has actual notice of the roots.


So what does this mean?


Your best bet is to take good photographs that depict the problem and take them to a local attorney. For a modest fee you should have the attorney send a certified letter to your neighbor demanding the removal of the roots. Hopefully this will bring them to the negotiation table without the necessity of filing a lawsuit. Based on the photos you take and the response of your neighbor, your attorney will then advise the next step.


I would not exercise self help until a local attorney has reviewed the property and given you advise. The danger, even if the courts decide self help is permissible with root encroachment, is that the tree could die as a result of the root damage. It is generally recognized that you can trim encroaching limbs, but if you damage the tree itself then you could be liable for the damage. In other words your neighbor could sue if you kill the tree.


Please reply if I can help further.




Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Is there a specific type of attorney I should use for this?
Expert:  JD replied 6 years ago.

Any general practitioner would be fine. I recommend you ask family, friends, and coworkers for a referral. The best way to find a good lawyer is by referral. If that is not available you can check an online directory such as where you can search by practice area (civil litigation or real estate litigation) and geographical location.


Please reply if I can help further.



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