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<Bill Logan>
posted
Trees are on a slope behind a condo complex. Big oaks. The branches once extended over the property line, but the trunks are securely on the uphill neighbor's property. The uphill neighbor topped three mature oaks to improve his view. The trees will now decline and die, creating a hazard for the condo complex, the downhill neighbor. But can the downhill neighbor claim compensation for the damage to the trees? In other words, do the condo people have any ownership rights in the trees? And is it worth putting a value on the trees for the condo people?
 
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<Scott Cullen>
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Reply to post by Bill Logan, on March 01, 2003 at 09:56:09:

That is really a legal question, but my sense is the condo association had no beneficial interest or rights in the trees. They may have enjoyed benefits (shade, screen, etc.) but that was a freebee.

The logical exception would be if the neighbor-tree owner had some obligation to the condo to main the trees like an easement or development condition.

The trees might be covered by some municipal tree ordinance but if there is lost value there it is the municipality's not the condo's.

If loss of the trees destabilizes the slope there might be a municipal regulation issue there too.

If there is damage to the condo's property from the trees falling or the slope failing or eroding the condo would look to recover any lost value to the condo property but that is not value in the neighbor's trees today.

The dead or damaged trees might become a nuisance if they are likely to fail or cause damage and the condo might be able to force their removal, but again that is not a loss of value in the trees to the condo.

The starting questions are always value to whom and what are the rights to and interests in the valuable property.
 
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<Guy>
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Reply to post by Bill Logan, on March 01, 2003 at 09:56:09:

While decline and death are more likely following topping, they are not a given. Might the condo tell the uphill neighbor in a certified letter that if no steps are taken to keep the trees healthy, they may pose a hazard to the condo by failing?

And if the topped trees have value to the condo owners, might it be in their best interest to help pay to maintain them? The overhanging branches that may be left after topping do present an asset or a liability depending on what is done.

Scott's points about regs and value are good; but it's not crystal clear to me that the condo had no legal interest in the overhanging branches. And, how could they have been removed without the crews entering the condo property? And, if they did so without permission, isn't that trespassing?

The determining issue imho in the end is, is there enough left of the trees to be cared for or not, will they keep giving value or not.
 
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<Scott>
posted
Reply to post by Guy, on March 01, 2003 at 09:56:09:

We usually look at this from the uphill neighnor's perspective. Did the condo have the right to remove overhanging branches from my tree. Usually they have a right to remove either with reasonable care or any old way they want depmeding on the state you live in. But does the condo have a right to tell me I cant't remove my branches? What if I wanted to remove my tree? I can't becasue of the overhanging branches? I tend to think not. It's my tree I can remove it. There is an issue of trespass but it's entirely likely the overhanging branches could have been removed in the course of topping the trees w/o any trespass.

But to get back to the vasic question damages from trespass, tree failure or slope failure are all separte from tree value to the condo.
 
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