You’ve posed soome very good questions. First, I am not a lawyer, and my comments are not intended as legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer on legal questions.
In many places the ‘self-help’ rule does apply, allowing a property owner to cut limbs that overhang, but only back to the property line. Any farther might be trespass, if done without permission. Also, some jurisdictions have qualified that rule by requiring that the tree itself not be harmed in the process.
Usually, if the base of a tree straddles the property line, both owners share rights to the tree, and neither can harm the tree without the other’s permission. I don’t think your neighbor can compell you to cut the branches if the tree is not dangerous, but that can vary by jurisdicitons (and I’m not a lawyer...)
I have dealt with many cases of disgruntled (or worse) neighbors over tree disputes. My advice is to invite your neighbor over to sit on the patio over your preferred beverages and discuss the issue sanely. Each list what he likes and what he dislikes about the tree, the complaints about the tree and what it affects. But please be civil. Finally, do a little brainstorming together on how to resolve the issues. If you agree to work together, you might be amazed at how easy the solution can be. If necessary, call in a certified arborist to advise on possible ways to deal with the tree.
Russ Carlson, RCA, BCMA
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