What is the law on trees in Alabama? There are several types of legal issues that can arise from trees either falling, growing directly on a boundary line, or a portion of the tree growing across the boundary line on to the property of another. You should be familiar with the law for each of these scenarios to avoid any potential disputes with your neighbors in the future.
Who is responsible for a fallen tree in Alabama?
If your neighbor’s tree falls onto your property and damages your property, they may be responsible for those damages. It is entirely dependent on if the neighbor was negligent. To prove negligence in the context of a fallen tree, you would need to prove that the neighbor knew or should have known that the tree way dying and likely to fall. You would also need to prove they failed to take reasonable actions to prevent that tree from causing damage to your property.
If you believe your neighbor has a dying tree or a tree with dead limbs, you should discuss the matter with them.
If those discussions are not fruitful, then take photographs of the dying trees and send a letter to them restating your concerns. Keep records of the photographs, the letter, and any other conversations regarding the tree in question. This would all be evidence necessary to prove negligence if your property were damaged by the tree in the future.
Can I force my neighbor to remove dead trees from their property?
No, you can not force a neighbor to remove a dead or dying tree from their property. This is the case even if the tree poses a risk of damage to your property.
If you believe your neighbors tree poses a risk to your property you should document those concerns and voice them to your neighbor. This is critical to establishing the necessary facts and evidence if the tree does cause damage in the future.
Can I remove a Tree that is on the Property line?
You cannot remove a tree when the trunk is on the boundary line unless you and your neighbor both agree to the removal. The Alabama Supreme Court addressed this issue in a case called Young v. Ledford in 2009. While not required, you should get the agreement in writing and have it signed. This prevents any potential issues from arising after the tree is removed.
Can I remove limbs from my neighbor’s trees if they cross on to my property?
Yes, the Alabama Supreme Court stated that a property owner has the right to remove tree limbs or roots that extend across the boundary line of the property. That case was Harding v. Bethesda, and it was decided in 1989 and remains good law today. You can only remove the portions that extend on to your property. If the trunk of the tree is on your neighbor’s property you cannot remove the tree in its entirety.
This comes from an old common law idea that a property owner owns the skies and the depths below the soil. As a result, when a tree limb or root crosses the boundary line you become the owner of that portion of the tree. This is what grants you the right to cut or remove portions of the tree that cross on to your property even when the trunk of the tree is on the property of another.
Additionally, remove roots with care. You should avoid actions that might kill the tree, especially if the tree is in a position that it might damage your property or your neighbor’s property if it falls in the future. If you cause the death of the tree, you might be liable for the damages that result.
What if a neighbor damages my tree?
If a neighbor were to violate the law and damage a tree that is on your property, then under Alabama law you can recover actual damages. This is generally what you paid for the tree, or what it would cost to replace the tree. Ala. Code Section 35-14-1 provides greater context regarding damage caused to trees. Additionally, it states that actions for damage to tree can be joined with actions for trespass.
If you have suffered damage as a result of a tree falling and need assistance navigating that claim, contact me for a free consultation. We can discuss the facts of your case and advise you accordingly.