Dear Urban Diplomat: should I have to pay for my neighbour’s tree maintenance?
Dear Urban Diplomat,
There’s a huge maple tree in the backyard next to mine. Its branches spread over my yard, where they get tangled in my clothesline and block all the sun from my herb garden. When I kindly asked the owner to trim the offending branches, he said fine, hired a pro to do it and then dropped a $400 invoice in my mailbox! I shouldn’t pay, should I?
—Branch Manager, Leaside
Legally, you’re in limbo—tree-trimming on private property is not regulated by the city, meaning it’s purely a civil matter between you and your neighbour. Morally, I say splitting the bill 50/50 is fair. Should your passive-aggressive neighbour have discussed who would pay before proceeding? Absolutely. But is it worth potentially making an enemy for life right next door? Hardly. Be happy your herb garden has a fighting chance, and move on.
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7 thoughts on “Dear Urban Diplomat: should I have to pay for my neighbour’s tree maintenance?”
Who is the bill addressed to? If it’s not addressed to you, ignore it until the neighbour approaches you in a reasonable way and offer to pay half. C’mon … it’s his tree!
We were told by a tree arborist, that in our area (Mississauga) if the limbs of a neighbour’s tree is hanging over our property, we have a right to trim it (within reason as not damage the tree). WE however, are responsible for the bill. Having said that, being a good neighbour means that you have a conversation first, and usually agree to split the bill. We live on a very mature lot with many 100+ old trees, and are constantly dealing with tree issues.
Unless that invoice is somehow addressed to you (which I doubt it would be since your neighbor would’ve had no legal authority to enter into a contract with the tree trimming company on your behalf), then its not your concern, nowithstanding your neighbor’s passive-aggressively childish attempt to suggest otherwise.
I’d say just ignore until such time as your neighbor decides to act like an adult and discuss the matter with you.
If it’s me, I’m not paying squat.
Actually if you damage the tree and even kill it, you’re still off the hook. I looked up the legal stuff as my neighbour doesn’t like my maple tree branches overlooking his backyard. He doesn’t like any bushes or trees of any kind, not sure why people buy a house in a mature treed area and then clearcut the lot but that’s another story. I told him I will trim it in the fall so the sap doesn’t run all over and no, I won’t ask him to pay. He has the right to chop it off and ruin it.
“Actually if you damage the tree and even kill it, you’re still off the hook.”
@pieinthesky – First of all, every municipality is different so one should not make sweeping claims regarding liability.
For example, your statement may be true regarding liability in Saskatchewan, where one may cut the trespassing branches and roots of a border tree even if that action causes the death of the tree. (Koenig v. Goebel, 1998).
However in Toronto, under current private tree protection and urban forestry bylaws, all tree pruning has to be done in accordance with good arboricultural standards and that includes preserving the tree’s health. So in Toronto, if your neighbor prunes your tree in such a way that it severely compromises the tree’s health and/or cause its death, then your neighbor is liable for damages.
$400 (and a token-gift for your neighbour agreeing to cut it down) is a small price to keep the peace.
From my architectural experience in England, if I kill a neighbour’s tree he may have a case only if I did not exercise care and pruned negligently. If I violate a city bylaw I can be fined by the city. But best to talk to the neighbour and investigate the bylaws in your area.
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