Natural Fences Make Bad Neighbors

Floridians often use trees and shrubs to mark their property’s boundaries, and encroachment disputes caused by growing foliage are all too common in Florida. If you are losing yard space to your neighbor’s encroaching vegetation, you might be inclined to take drastic action to address the problem. But, before you bust out the chainsaw, it’s important to understand your rights related to natural encroachments in Florida.

In Florida, landowners are not liable to persons outside their land for a nuisance resulting from trees and natural vegetation growing on their land. Generally, this means you can’t sue a neighbor for a natural encroachment onto your property. Fortunately, if a neighbor’s vegetation encroaches onto your land, you have a right to self-help. You have a right to trim the offending flora up to your property line at your own expense.

It’s very important to tread lightly if you intend to pursue a self-help remedy. If you over-trim a neighbor’s tree, or damage the roots of the tree so that the tree dies, you may be found liable for the cost of replacing the tree. Even worse, if you damage a living tree, and the tree falls onto a house or a person, you may be held responsible for the resulting damage.

Before engaging in self-help to address a natural encroachment, it’s wise to document the encroachment in writing. You should send a letter to the offending neighbor, and ask the neighbor to correct the encroachment. If your neighbor is unwilling to address the problem, you should ask for permission to trim the encroaching vegetation up to the property line. If the neighbor refuses all neighborly attempts to resolve the matter, you still have a right to self-help, and you’ve built a compelling document trail that shows you attempted to resolve the matter amicably.

A few tips for addressing a natural encroachment on your property:

  1. Review a boundary survey to confirm where your property’s boundary line is located.
  2. Document any encroachments in writing, and share the survey information with your neighbor.
  3. Ask the neighbor to fix the encroachment.
  4. If the neighbor is unwilling to fix the encroachment, ask for authorization to trim the encroaching vegetation, and share your proposed vegetation trimming plan.
  5. If your neighbor refuses to provide authorization for you to trim the vegetation, you still have a right to self-help.
  6. Consult with an arborist to determine if your self-help plan could result in killing the offending vegetation.
  7. Consult with a knowledgeable real estate attorney who can guide you through the process.

If you have questions related to your ability to trim encroaching vegetation, or if your neighbor is an uncooperative stick-in-the-mud, branch out and contact a knowledgeable real estate attorney.

Sincerely,

Berlin Patten Ebling, PLLC

Article Authored by Ben DeMarsh, Esq. bdemarsh@berlinpatten.com

This communication is not intended to establish an attorney client relationship, and to the extent anything contained herein could be construed as legal advice or guidance, you are strongly encouraged to consult with your own attorney before relying upon any information contained herein.

All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

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