Legal Lens: What you can legally do if a neighbor is negligent about trees, water run-off onto your property

Legal Lens

The Brown & Crouppen Legal Lens takes a closer look at everyday legal issues and gives you a better understanding of topics that may affect you.

ST. LOUIS – If you feel your neighbor is being negligent with their trees growing into your property or water runoff, you do have some protection. Andrea McNairy, managing attorney at Brown & Crouppen, explains it all in this week’s Legal Lens.

What if your neighbor’s tree falls onto your property? Can you sue them?

“The answer is it depends. Landowners are responsible for maintaining the trees on their property. Legally, landowners have two responsibilities on their properties. One is they have to make reasonable inspections of their trees and branches and make sure they are safe. And two they have to ensure it’s alive and anticipated to be safe,” McNairy said.

What if branches are hanging onto your property, can you do anything?  

“You can. Legally, you are allowed to trim branches that are over your property but only up to the property line,” she said.

“You need to be careful because if you destroy the tree or the tree dies from over trimming, you can be liable for up to three times the value of the tree. So you can trim the branches up to your property line but you want to be careful with that.”

Can you force neighbors to trim the trees that are hanging onto your property?

“You can’t. One of my tips would be to keep communication open with your neighbors because if you feel they do have a tree or limb that is dangerous, and things coming onto your property, and don’t look healthy. Later on, you can show there was communication that could have happened and they didn’t fulfill their duty as landowners,” McNairy said. 

When it comes to water and water runoff from your neighbor’s yard, what is your suggestion with that?

“Missouri has adopted what they call reasonable use rule, so unlike other states, you can change the flow of water on your own property, and it can flow onto your neighbor’s property and it (is) ok,” she said.

“But you can’t interfere with use and entertainment on somebody’s property and you can’t destroy somebody’s property.”

McNairy also says these issues get weighed by the court as to who is responsible.

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