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Can your neighbor sue you if your tree blocks their view?

Trees on a property can substantially contribute to the property’s overall value. Depending on the placement, species and age of a tree, mature hardwoods can potentially increase your property value by several thousand dollars. That is due to a combination of the aesthetic value of trees, the way that shade increases your enjoyment of the property or decreases cooling bills in the summer, and the theoretical value of the timber.

Sometimes, people purchase property specifically because of the trees on the land. Other times, people invest in their properties by planting trees that will eventually grow into something large and majestic. It is common for new trees to go in along property lines. Unfortunately, property owners don’t always account for the eventual expansion of the canopy of leaves the tree produces or the root system.

Not every homeowner considers the impact on the neighbors of their planting decisions either. Whether you planted a tree, or simply purchased a home with a tree already on the land, it is possible for your neighbors to claim that your tree presents a nuisance. In that situation, they may bring action against you in court to force you to trim or even remove the tree.

To be a nuisance, a tree must impact the use of a property

Technically speaking, branches and roots that encroach onto your neighbor’s property belong to them. They do have the right to trim those branches. They cannot legally compel you to provide tree trimming services, and any tree trimming they perform cannot harm or kill the tree. If they damage or kill your tree, you may be able to bring civil action against them.

Common reasons that people have for trimming back trees include leaf drop in the fall, flowers, fruit and other objects dropped by the tree, too much shade or even allergies, in some cases. Issues with trees often involve the view available from parts of a property. The truth is that obstruction of a view alone likely does not constitute a nuisance in Minnesota.

Individuals have a right to the quiet enjoyment of their property, but there is no guarantee about the view implied. If your neighbor has an issues stemming from leaf drop, pests or other practical concerns, you may need to take action. If they are simply irritated about seeing the tree branches from their bedroom window, they likely won’t get far if they attempt to bring legal action.

Tree issues are often complicated

Overhanging trees and their encroaching on a property as they grow over the years is a common source of neighborly conflicts. While trees can beautify a neighborhood, they can also cause serious damage to neighborly relationships.

If you are worried about the actions your neighbor may take about conflict over a tree, speaking with an attorney who understands Minnesota real estate law is a smart move. Once you have discussed the specifics of your situation with an attorney, you can make a more informed decision about how to address the issue with your neighbor.