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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.

Texas Statutes & Rules

Federal Statutes & Rules

Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. § 7401 et seq.)
While not directly addressing neighbor disputes over vegetation, the Clean Air Act is relevant as it can be implicated if a neighbor's tree or vegetation affects air quality on your property.

The Clean Air Act is a comprehensive federal law that regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources. It authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health and public welfare and to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants. If a neighbor's vegetation, such as a large number of trees, were to significantly affect air quality on your property, it might be possible to seek relief under the provisions of this act, although such cases are rare and typically involve industrial rather than residential concerns.

Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. § 1531 et seq.)
This statute may be relevant if the dispute involves trees or vegetation that provide habitat for endangered or threatened species.

The Endangered Species Act provides for the conservation of species that are endangered or threatened throughout all or a significant portion of their range, and the conservation of the ecosystems on which they depend. If a neighbor's tree or vegetation is considered critical habitat for an endangered species, it may be protected under this act. This could limit your ability to trim or remove the tree, even if it extends onto your property.

Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.)
The ADA is relevant if a neighbor's vegetation interferes with an individual's access or mobility, and that individual has a disability as defined by the ADA.

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. If a neighbor's trees or shrubs create a barrier or hazard that interferes with the mobility or access of a person with a disability, the ADA may offer a legal avenue for requiring the neighbor to remedy the situation.

Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. §§ 703–712)
This act could be relevant if the dispute involves trees that are nesting sites for migratory birds.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it unlawful to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to Federal regulations. If a neighbor's tree is a nesting site for migratory birds, it may be protected under this act, which could affect your rights to trim or remove the tree.