Trimming a Neighbor's Tree Without Permission

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Is it OK to harvest fruit that is going to waste from neighbor's tree ?

July 2015

There is a house a few blocks away from mine that I walk by most days of the week. In their side yard just at the end of the driveway is a plum tree bursting with ripe fruit. There is so much fruit it's dropping all over the ground and rotting. It doesn't look like anyone ever harvests any of it. I would LOVE to pick a bunch of them and take them home but when I knock on the door to ask if that's okay nobody ever answers. The house is kind of run down and is possibly empty but I'm not sure about that.

Would it be wrong of me to pick some of the fruit without permission? The tree is not in their backyard but is down their driveway so it's certainly trespassing and it's clearly their tree (not a street tree). I hate to see all that fruit go to waste!! And I'm crazy about plums. Can I take some?? Plum Lover

I agree with you that it seems so wasteful for all the fruit to fall and rot away, but I don't think its ok to enter someone else property to pick their fruit . Maybe they do have plans for it eventually , regardless it's their property, so no. I see a lot of the same here in Berkeley, toons of fruit heavy threes that seem to go to waste.

Here's my question ,On the way to our sons daycare there is a apricot three that's a street three. My husband usually walks to pick up our son and has been telling me about it, how walking by every day with fruit falling off and just tons of it that nobody seems to care for. One day I was able to come for the pick up and we picked a few fruits, probably 4-5 each and right as my husband put one in his mouth a women pulled up to the house closest to the street and questioned us about picking and we apologized and offered her the fruit but she didn't want it. She wasn't friendly and I just wanted to get on with our nice for me early day and didn't want to ask her about her rights to the th\ree. So I'm wondering what are the rules. There is a street tree outside your house on city sidewalk. Maybe she planted it, but then why not care for it. Love to make fruit pies and jams

Harvest away! Keley

You have done your due diligence. Now you can pick the plums. If anyone complains, just say sorry and leave. Anon

I can't believe two of the three previous responses told you to go ahead and take your neighbor's plums. You would be trespassing and stealing. It might be true that you won't get caught and that your neighbor wouldn't be upset, but you don't know that. It's a minor crime, but it is a crime. - Anonymous lawyer

There are organizations that harvest fruit from private residences so the produce won't go to waste. See website URL below. Since you want to harvest it yourself what I would do is put a note on the person's door to ask if it's ok and to call you back with their response, or to post a note with their response. If there is no phone call or note, just harvest the fruit. It seems to me the worst that could happen is you get told to stop it and leave. No biggee. anon

Wow, I have been really surprised about the responses to this post. I have fruit trees, and no, it is not okay to take your neighbor's fruit. You don't know what they are planning to do with the fruit, and it's not your business. Some years, we harvest fruit a little bit at a time so we have fresh fruit to eat and other years we harvest it all at once and make preserves and dried fruit. Sometimes, we give a lot of it away to family and friends. But that is our choice, not our neighbors' choice. As to seeing lots of fruit on the ground ''going to waste'', you really don't know that either. If we get too much fruit starting to grow, I thin the early unripened fruit so that the tree limbs don't break from being too heavy. It also keeps the fruit harvest more even each year. If a tree ripens too much fruit in one year, it hardly produces any fruit the next year. I throw the unripened fruit on the ground, rather than put it in our green waste bin. It recycles on the ground perfectly well.

If you really love fresh plums, please plant your own tree. Then you will understand the story of The Little Red Hen. If you didn't do the work to grow the fruit, you have no right to eat it. Please don't take my fruit

Neighbors are continually cutting back our trees

August 2008

We have neighbors on either side of our house who continually cut back our plants and sometimes large branches of our trees that hang over on to their property. We've asked more than once to let us know if they want something cut back and we will do it (they do such hack jobs that we worry the plants/trees might die.) However, this never happens. Does anyone know how to find out where the law really stands on this issue? We've asked both attorneys and our city hall and have gotten conflicting answers. We live in Benicia. Thanks for any advice/help!

As a former landscaper I can tell you that your neighbors have the legal right to cut anything that hangs over on to their property in any manner they choose. I think the only thing you can do is talk to them again....or just pay REALLY close attention to the plant growth so you can get to it before they do. Good luck. I know it's frustrating. Been there

I'd be pissed at my neighbors, too. At the same time, if you KNOW it's a problem, and you KNOW they're going to cut your plants when they hang over the fence, CUT 'EM YOURSELF ALREADY! See any patterns here?!? If you're so concerned for your plants and trees, take better care of them yourself so that the neighbors are never tempted to take matters into their own hands. Should they ideally talk to you? Yes. But they don't. You want to complain about how they SHOULD act? Or solve the problem? They sound like unreasonable nutjobs -- so why are you trying to be reasonable with crazy people? I'd be focused on trying to find a way to minimize the risk of irritating the lunatics next door... kevin

My advice would be to get out there and trim them BEFORE they grow into your neighbors yards. Then it probably wouldn't be an issue. I wouldn't want to have to call my neighbor every time I wanted to trim. I would expect them to be proactive about it if they were that concerned. The usual theory is that they can cut anything on their side of the fence as long as it doesn't kill the tree.

Try to remember that nothing can kill a warm-fuzzy neighborhood feeling like fighting over trees and plants. Be the good guy and keep them trimmed. Sounds like that would keep you AND your neighbors happy. Be a good plant parent.

Take the hint, it would seem that your neighbors don't like your trees overhanging into their yard. It is understandable. The solution is very straightforward AND friendly AND, your responsibility. Not theirs. Regularly monitor your own trees and keep your trees trimmed back. How hard can that be? In this way, you can maintain your trees properly w/o worry about your neighbors hacking at your trees. Your neighbors will appreciate your consideration and your trees will get the proper care. Doing your part will go a long ways towards good neighbor relations. Legally, your neighbors have the right to cut back those trees that hang over onto their property. I see no reason to be litigious, unless you have a lawyer that cuts trees on the side. :) Signed, K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, silly)

I live in Kensington, same issue; I have no trees on my property, but both neighbors have HUGE trees that overhang my property. I have asked also for them to cut-back, but to no avail. I read somewhere that you are under no obligation to advise your neighbor that you want to cut the over-hang; you should be allowed to do whatever you wish on your side of the ''fence'' (regardless of who pays)

However, as we are supposed to be good neighbors, we should share the expense, or at least talk about the situation. Too bad we don't all live next to good neighbors.... I think if you are not getting a response, and you have the budget to cut back with your own money, then do so. Obviously, if your neighbor does not even respect you enough to respond, and you have made the effort, then you should do whats in your best interest. Edward

Why not cut back the trees yourself when they start to hang over your neighbor's property? You might even ask them if you can do it from their yard, or tell them that you'll hire a gardener to do it. Sounds like they really don't like your plants in their yard, and I'd say they have a right to cut it back if it's in their yard or overhanging their yard. So be respectful. Prune your plants before they get there. (and their ''hack job'' is probably more un-aesthetic than harmful to the plant. If it's really potentially harmful, you'd take care of it yourself before it got to that stage, wouldn't you?)

Neighbors cut 5 feet off the top of our hedge

May 2008

What are my options in dealing with our neighbors who recently cut about 5ft off of our hedge that was on our property so they could get a breeze? We have told them we were not going to cut it as it gave our backyard total privacy from their big two story house. Now we have no privacy and the hedge is as tall as the legal height of a fence. It will take years to grow back. I am sick about it. We were out of town when this happened. No more privacy

I'm sure others will give you sane, practical info. I'm here with the ''flying off the handle'' approach. Man... I'd be pissed at that huge violation! Hell, I'm pissed FOR you.

I would erect something 5 ft above the existing hedge that is semi-permanent (allows the hedge to grow) that blocks their breeze and is INCREDIBLY unattractive (smelly too, if I could deal with it) facing their direction. You might not want to actually take my advice, but just fantasize about it instead. Really, they vandalized your property. You've gotta have some recourse.

I feel your pain. My neighbor did this too, despite my previous warnings to her and to her gardeners that she does not have permission to come in to my yard and prune my plants, which she had done to me and to other neighbors several times. We aren't talking about my plants hanging over in to her yard or shading her yard. They were growing straight up on my side of the fence. She doesn't want me to have anything in my yard taller than the 4 foot high fence we share. She says it blocks her sun, which is nonsense. Our houses are only a few feet apart, over 2 stories tall so there is no sunlight in that space with or without trees, and the plants I put in for a little screening between us are well below the tops of our houses. I wrote her a letter after she decapitated a little stand of bamboo I had just started there to give me a little privacy. In the letter I repeated that she does not have my permission to prune anything on my side of the fence, and I asked her to pay me to replace the fledgling bamboo she ruined. Didn't hear back, but things did calm down for a while. But I still keep an eye out when her gardeners are there, and I have caught them a couple of times with an electric pruner just on the verge of clipping my stuff. Another neighbor threatened her with a restraining order after the bad neighbor brought her gardeners over and started hacking away at the neighbor's redwood tree (which also wasn't hanging over her yard.) Some people are just craaaazy I guess.

We're no lawyers, but what my husband & I would do ASAP is file a police report/complaint. It's got to be something like, trespassing, destruction of property, vandalism... (A police report will be useful should you go to court.) Then we'd head over to the free lawyer day that's offered at many of the local libraries. Find out what you need to do evidence-wise to take this guy (total jerk) to small claims court. Hopefully you'll be able to sue for the max - $5000, I think. To get to the $5K amount, you'll need to put a loss value on what happened. I'd find a good real estate agent who can say in a letter, that the damage done caused a property value loss at X amount because you no longer have the ''private backyard space.'' You can also head to a nursery & get an estimate on what the replacement cost including labor would be for such big plants. Well, that's where we'd start on this. What an ugly neighbor! Good luck. Debbie

So sorry this happened. It happened to my parents and they took them to court and won a settlement -- not enough to replace the trees their neighbors destroyed (they also painted tar on the cuts!) apparently my folks' hedge was blocking the sun to their fruit trees -- and of course the lost privacy was also upsetting. neighbors can be ugly

I'm sorry I didn't respond earlier, but I wanted to check in with my husband who is an attorney who's dealt with exactly these kinds of issues. Your neighbors broke the law and are liable for that. Among the things that my husband said you could prosecute them for: trespassing and destruction of property. So you should be able to get your attorney's fees and damages--maybe damages of three to five times the value of the hedges. He strongly encourages you to pursue it. My family now lives out of state, but recently a neighbor radically cut back a tree that she thought was on her property. She didn't cut it down, just trimmed it way back. Her neighbors sued her and she ended up paying $5,000 in damages for destruction of property. So that might give you a sense of the infraction here. Sympathetic with you

Neighbors may have cut trees on our property

Nov 2004

My wife and I recently purchased a house in Montclair. We did not bother with a survey of the property line at the time of purchase and the map and description in our prelims are quite cryptic.

A few weeks ago our immediate neighbor hired a crew to cut and trim some Eucalyptus trees on his property. The problem is that we are pretty sure that some of the cut trees are on *our* side of the property line (the neighbor did not contact us before cutting the trees). When we noticed, we asked the neighbor to stop the work until we could assess exactly where the property line is.

We called a few surveyors in the area and their phone-estimates are in the $2500-$4000 range. We have no idea if this is what we should expect, or if there is any other (reasonably priced) way to establish a property line.

Also, we would appreciate any suggestion about what we can do if it turns out that -as we unfortunately expect- the trees were on our property.

Same situation happened to us...our neighbor trimmed/cut trees which were on our property. We had recently moved in, and the previous owner told us his father had planted the large redwood tree in dispute.

I called MANY surveyors and found that they wanted min. $2500- 3500 to survey just one property line and map the house out for us. Ridiculous! Then through my realtor I found Don Vegvary of Vegvary and Vegvary Engineering. Really nice guy, competant, quick and very inexpensive - we got everything done and addiotional work for $1500 on a 1/3+ acre property. He also did not come with an attitude, which so many surveyors I interviewed had! Don can be reached at (925) 947-1051.

Needless to say, the tree was on our property, and turned out that we had MORE property than previously thought! Good luck! Maya