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Real property

trees, shrubs, and bushes

Trees, shrubs, bushes, and other vegetation can be the subject of neighbor disputes. If you are not able to resolve an issue by talking to your neighbor, the law may provide some relief.

For example, if your neighbor’s tree extends onto your property and blocks your view, blocks sunlight, sheds pollen, acorns, leaves, or other foliage—or otherwise interferes with your use and enjoyment of your property—it may constitute a nuisance and you may be able to get help (relief) from the civil court system.

In some states you may have the right to trim a tree to the property line or boundary. But in some states an overhanging tree may have acquired the right to be there through an easement by prescription or prescriptive easement, for example.

But if a tree is on or near the property line and the tree and its root structure extends onto both properties, you generally may not remove it or kill it without your neighbor’s consent. And some municipalities place restrictions on the removal of trees.

Trees with dead or decaying branches can also create liability for a landowner if they fall and cause personal injuries to guests, neighbors, or members of the public—or cause property damage to a neighboring property or motor vehicle, for example.

Laws regarding trees, shrubs, bushes, and other vegetation on neighboring properties may vary from state to state and may be included in a state’s statutes or in its court opinions—also known as common law or case law. And there may be municipal ordinances (laws enacted by local governments in cities and towns) that govern these issues.

In Texas, the law regarding trees and vegetation on neighboring properties is primarily governed by state statutes and common law. If a neighbor's tree branches extend onto your property, you generally have the right to trim them up to the property line. However, you cannot legally trim or cut a tree in a way that would damage or kill it if it stands on the property line and is considered a 'boundary tree' without the consent of your neighbor. Texas does not recognize a legal right to an unobstructed view or sunlight, so claims based on blocking views or sunlight are unlikely to succeed. If a tree poses a nuisance due to shedding debris, you may seek relief through civil court, but this is often a complex area of law and outcomes can vary. Municipal ordinances may also impose additional restrictions on tree removal, especially for protected or heritage trees. Regarding liability, a property owner in Texas can be held responsible if a tree on their property with known dead or decaying branches causes damage or injury when those branches fall. It is advisable to consult with an attorney to understand the specific legal remedies and obligations in your situation.

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