Is it OK to Cut Down my Neighbor’s Trees?

Tree disputes are one of the top conflicts between property owners. A neighbor’s tree may be extending over your fence, blocking your view, dropping leaves into your pool, and their roots may be destroying your fence and cracking your driveway. What are you to do?

California Civil Code bars anyone from going onto the land of another and cutting or removing trees. That makes logical sense because one would have to trespass to do so. But what about when those limbs cross onto your land. Do you have an absolute right to cut these? The answer is “No”!

As a string of California cases has repeatedly affirmed, a neighbor does not have the right to cut off encroaching roots or branches so that they don’t cross over the property line. Before doing so, you must first evaluate the health of the tree and then act reasonably in any trimming that you attempt. By “reasonable,” the law means that you must exercise care to avoid unnecessary damage… in short, you can’t kill it. California Civil Code section 3346 considers the encroachment of branches and roots onto your property to be a nuisance. You can trim the tree on your land in a way that the tree is not damaged. If you cause the tree to die or cause so much damage that its value is lost, you can be held liable for up to three times the damage. That means determining the value of the tree which can easily be more than $10,000. Also, a damage that destroys a “protected tree” such as a Heritage Oak can bring substantial additional penalties. How should you proceed?

1. Communicate with your neighbor –Open the dialogue, by explaining the situation and showing the damage, it is quite likely that the two of you can agree to a trimming plan. Maybe the neighbor is also concerned about the tree growth, and you can collaborate on an equally beneficial remedy.

2. Consult a professional arborist – before you start any substantial cutting, talk to a tree expert and find out what is safe to do and what is not. There are proper ways that trees can be trimmed to get you the benefit you want with the least damage to the tree. To minimize the risk of unexpected costs, ensure that whom you select to consult with is a licensed, bonded tree contractor.

Rest assured, is that you do have rights. You can be proactive and protect your property from being destroyed by branches and roots. Your neighbor cannot use their land to cause damage to the area of another. This is called “nuisance” and, if the neighbor refuses to fix the problem you have the right to act. You may get legal assistance and get a Court Order compelling the neighbor to remove the encroachment and repair the damage. If there is some damage imminent, such as the neighbor’s tree is about to fall over, or the roots are about to break your plumbing, faster action may be called for. In these cases, use a professional and take plenty of pictures.

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Preparing to Buy a Home

During the loan process your credit, income and asset situation is vital to maintain. Here is a non-exhaustive list of some “good ideas and bad ideas,” to follow once you have decided to buy a home. Please read carefully.

GOOD IDEA… staying current on all existing credit accounts.

BAD IDEA… applying for any new credit, opening any new credit accounts, applying for a higher credit limit or closing any currently opened credit accounts.

GOOD IDEA… maintaining normal spending habits

BAD IDEA… making any large purchases on your current credit accounts or increasing your spending.

GOOD IDEA…providing all documents requested up front and keep all original paystubs, bank statements, tax returns and other financial documentation handy as you receive it. Please keep in mind you may be required to update your loan file during the process.

BAD IDEA… co-signing for anyone else for a home or car loan or any other type of debt.


GOOD IDEA…notifying us if you are planning to receive any gift funds for the down payment or any other costs.

BAD IDEA…Disputing any credit amounts on your credit report before or during the loan process-disputed accounts can alter your credit score.

GOOD IDEA… notifying us if you have any financial expenditures coming up during our loan process that will lower your assets.

BAD IDEA…making any type of employment changes or compensation without checking with your lender.

GOOD IDEA… notifying us if you have any upcoming employment changes, raises, promotions, change in pay structure, etc.

BAD IDEA…. closing any current bank accounts, opening any new bank accounts, or more money around between accounts.

GOOD IDEA… notifying us if you are going on vacation at any time during the process.

BAD IDEA… depositing any cash to your bank account without contacting your mortgage consultant to discuss the requirements of documentation and whether or not it will be accepted as funds for closing.

GOOD IDEA… being flexible and make yourself available for your home inspection and your closing appointment.

Buying vs Renting

What Are the Advantages of Owning a Home?

  • Greater privacy.
  • Homes typically increase in value, build equity, and provide savings for the future.
  • Your costs are predictable and more stable than renting because they’re ideally based on a fixed-rate mortgage.
  • Potential for rental income.
  • Greater creative freedom.
  • The interest and property tax portion of your mortgage payment is a tax deduction.
  • There’s pride in homeownership, which also closely ties you to your community.


What Are the Disadvantages of Owning a Home?

  • Homeownership is a long-term financial commitment.
  • You’re responsible for all maintenance on your home. This can include inexpensive repairs like fixing a broken toilet to complex and costly repairs likereplacing a furnace.
  • Although mortgage payments are usually fixed, they’re generally higher than rent payments.
  • Buying a home requires a down payment, closing costs and moving expenses.
  • The value of your house may not increase – especially during the first few years.


What are the Advantages of Renting?

  • Renting a home can be cheaper than buying a home. Your payments tend to be lower than a comparable house payment. Also, your rent may cover utility costs (additional savings).
  • You have more flexibility when you rent. Most leases are for 12 months. So, if your job requires you to move frequently, renting can be a desirable alternative to owning.
  • Your landlord, not you, is responsible for performing nearly all maintenance and repair work on the property.

Financial Disadvantages of Renting

  • There is no tax break for renting. You won’t be able to claim any deduction for mortgage interest and property taxes when you file your tax returns.
  • Your housing costs aren’t fixed like they are with a fixed-rate mortgage. Your rent will most likely grow from year to year.
  • No building of equity.