Can My Neighbor Cut My Tree in Michigan?

August 16, 2023

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Are you a homeowner asking, can my neighbor cut my tree in Michigan? This is a common question, as large, thick trees are common on Michigan properties! In turn, it’s not unusual for their branches to grow over a neighbor’s fence, garage, or house.

Laws regarding trimming someone else’s trees vary by location and change over time. However, in some cases, a neighbor can trim encroaching branches. Also, a neighbor may have some rights to remove dangerous branches or trees.

Before you do anything to a neighbor’s tree, or assume your neighbor has done wrong by trimming yours, keep reading! It’s vital that you understand this subject in more detail. Also, remember to contact a lawyer for legal questions rather than assuming how the law works.

Additionally, a tree services contractor can often offer advice on what to do about trees on your property. They can often offer advice on how to keep a tree safe without removing it altogether. They’re also typically familiar with laws about cutting or trimming a neighbor’s tree.

can my neighbor cut my tree in Michigan

Can My Neighbor Cut My Tree In Michigan?

In Michigan, as in many states, the rules regarding tree ownership and potential actions that neighbors can take vary. They’re often based on specific circumstances, such as how far a branch extends over a property. Also, remember that local laws can vary from city to city or county to county.

In general, trees situated on your property are considered your property. In turn, your neighbors typically do not have the right to cut them without your permission. Cutting someone else's trees without permission could potentially lead to legal issues, such as property damage claims or disputes. On the other hand, there are a few extenuating situations to consider:

Encroaching Branches

If branches from your tree extend over your neighbor's property, your neighbor might have the legal right to trim them back to the property line. They are usually expected to exercise reasonable care while doing so and should not cause unnecessary harm to the tree. The general principle is that they can trim only up to the property line and not beyond it.

Boundary Disputes

If there is a dispute over property boundaries, resolve the issue through proper legal channels. Don’t simply take any course of action like cutting trees. Disputes over property boundaries can be complex, and seeking legal advice is recommended. A surveyor can also assist in determining actual property boundaries.

Dangerous Trees

If your tree poses a danger to a neighbor's property or safety, they might have the right to request its removal. However, this typically involves demonstrating that the tree poses an imminent risk. It's often advisable to involve local authorities or professionals in assessing the situation.

Also, remember that being bothersome doesn’t necessarily mean a tree is dangerous. For instance, a tree might shed acorns that end up on a neighboring structure. Don’t assume this constitutes a “dangerous” tree. In any case, seek legal advice from an attorney familiar with property and tree-related laws in Michigan before taking action.

Can I Trim My Neighbor’s Tree in Michigan?

In Michigan, you generally have the right to trim branches that extend onto your property from your neighbor's tree. This is often referred to as the "right of self-help" or "self-help doctrine." However, there are some important considerations to keep in mind:

  • You can trim branches that cross the property line and extend onto your property. You are generally not allowed to enter your neighbor's property to trim branches directly on their side.
  • When trimming branches that belong to your neighbor's tree, you should exercise reasonable care to avoid causing unnecessary harm to the tree. This means you should not cause excessive damage that would harm the overall health of the tree.
  • You cannot enter your neighbor's property without permission to trim branches on their side of the property line. Trimming should be done from your own property.
  • The right to trim typically applies to branches that overhang your property. You generally cannot cut down the entire tree without your neighbor's permission.
  • You are usually responsible for the cost of trimming and disposing of the trimmed branches.
  • Certain types of trees might be protected by local regulations or ordinances. It's important to check if there are any restrictions on trimming or removing specific tree species.

It's recommended to consult local ordinances and regulations, as well as consider seeking legal advice, before proceeding with any tree trimming on your neighbor's property.

remnants of a fallen tree

Who Is Liable When a Tree Falls on a Neighbor’s Property in Michigan?

Liability for a tree falling onto a neighbor's property is a complex issue. It often depends on various factors, including why the tree fell, its condition, and whether any negligence was involved. Here are some general guidelines:

  • If a tree falls due to a storm, the property owner where the tree originated is not typically held liable. In most cases, it's considered an "act of God." In turn, the property owner is not responsible for the damage caused.
  • If you were aware that the tree was in a hazardous condition and posed a risk of falling, you might be liable. Negligence could involve failure to maintain the tree and address known issues, or take needed action to prevent potential harm.
  • Homeowner's insurance might cover the cost of repairs. However, insurance coverage can vary, and it's important to review the policies involved.
  • If a falling tree causes injury to someone on your neighbor's property, liability might be more complicated. In cases of negligence, you could potentially be held responsible for medical expenses and other damages.
  • If a tree on your property encroaches onto your neighbor's property, you might be liable for damage resulting from the encroachment.

A Word From Our Tree Services Team

Ann Arbor Tree Trimming & Removal Service is happy to help explain, can my neighbor cut my tree in Michigan? Remember to consult with an attorney regarding legal issues and questions. Also, if you’re in the area, call our Ann Arbor tree services contractors. We can prepare a FREE quote for all your needed tree services.


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