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LawTalk, Attorney
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 37639
Experience:  I have 30 years legal experience. Additionally, in CA I held a Real Estate Broker's license.
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Does Consumers energy have unlimited discretion in the

Customer Question

Does Consumers energy have unlimited discretion in the trimming of a tree that stands on my property (entirely) to provide electric service to my next-door neighbor?
Submitted: 8 months ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  LawTalk replied 8 months ago.

Good morning George,

I'm Doug, and I'm very sorry to hear of your situation. My goal is to provide you with excellent service today. I have been a licensed attorney for more than 3 decades. Please don't confuse excellent service with a satisfactory outcome based on your wants and desires. I can only explain the law to you---not guarantee that you will be happy with the outcome---any more than a cancer surgeon can guarantee a cure.

Utility companies that are responsible for the above-ground electric lines that run through many of the cities of our country have an electric power easement which allowed them to place the power poles in the first place. And the utilities owning those power poles have a legal duty to maintain the poles and lines and at their discretion. If a tree has limbs which they deem pose a potential hazard to the power lines, then they have the legal right---and even the obligation----to trim that tree to eliminate the hazard and make the area around the power lines safe. The fact that the tree to be trimmed belongs to an adjacent property owner does not limit the right of the power company to trim the tree, and neither does the power company have to seek permission to do the trimming. The property owner will often be notified in advance of the trimming and if the homeowner objects, they may file a formal complaint with the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. In the end, it is the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority that will make the determination as to whether the tree will be trimmed. The homeowner cannot be charged for the work done by the power company to the tree, even though it is the homeowner's tree that is creating the potential hazard.

Discretion is not unlimited. For example, the power company may not cut down an entire tree to the base of the trunk because one or two branches are creating a problem---but yes, the amount of the tree to be trimmed is determined by the power company. 8 feet of clearance from ground to sky around power lines is typical, though many tree crews don't go quite that far.

You may reply back to me using the Reply link and I will be happy to continue to assist you until I am able to address your concerns, to your satisfaction.

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I wish you and yours the best in 2016,


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