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Air Rights: Ability to trim trees that cross property lines

As a management company we are often confronted with issues or disputes between the condo association that we manage and its neighbors. One such example relates to the landscaping of neighboring properties. Specifically, the trees on these properties.

If a neighboring property has one or more trees with branches that have grown such that they extend over the property line of your association, you do have the ability to take action. "Air rights" exist such that the legal property lines for your association extend vertically into the air. Due to this, you have the ability to cut back any branches that are crossing your property line.

Words of Caution

Here are some thoughts to consider before you start trimming:

  1. I would recommend that your board first try to contact the owner(s) of the neighboring property, if possible, and have a discussion about the issue. You may find that they are willing to trim their trees directly and solve the problem. If nothing else, this communication will make the neighbor aware of the issue, and your plans to take action, which will hopefully help to avoid any arguments between parties.
  2. Make sure that you are confident about the location of your property lines. This may require the involvement of an expert to evaluate your property plat survey.
  3. I would also recommend that you hire a company that is experienced in dealing with these situations. While you may be able to perform the trimming work directly, the company's experience may help you avoid potential pitfalls or costly errors.

Responsibility for Costs

In my experience, the association that trims the branches has always been responsible for the costs. I am not aware of any statutes that allow an association to 1) force a neighboring property to trim their trees if they cross your property line, or 2) force a neighboring property to pay for the cost incurred should you elect to have the trees trimmed.

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