750 (1975), involved a man who was hurt while driving to work when a limb of a large dead tree fell onto his car. on private property between two sidewalks or near public pavement). Cutting Your Neighbor’s Tree Branches & Maryland Property Law. Homeowners in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC regularly face legal and practical issues related to potential tree damage, fallen trees, tree encroachment, and property-border disputes. Find out how to get one here. May, 14, 2002. It makes no distinction between native and non-native tree species—such as the Colorado Spruce, Gingko and Norway Maple, which can be found throughout the city—in terms of most of its regulations. (To learn what you must prove in order to get actual damages, see Nolo’s article When a Neighbor Damages or Destroys Your Tree.) Severe weather in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC can create havoc (through storms, wind, and snow), causing major damage from fallen trees and causing significant power outages when power lines are stricken by a tree branch during a storm. Basic Fence Laws Because Maryland does not have specific fence laws, it uses common law … The Court of Appeals in Melnick held that the Massachusetts Rule should be followed because any other rule “might spawn innumerable and vexatious lawsuits.” Judge John Eldridge wrote for the Court, “We have gotten along very well in Maryland, for over 350 years, without authorizing legal actions of this type by neighbor against neighbor.” Furthermore, the Court declined to categorize living trees, plants, roots, or vines as a nuisance, which must be abated. In Bookhultz v. Maryland Midland Railway, Inc., 688 F.Supp. Melnick primarily dealt with branches and roots of living, growing trees and vegetation. Standing Dead Tree Liability. Minnesota State Bar Association. A person may not cut down, trim, mutilate or in any way injure any roadside tree without a permit or work order issued by Baltimore County or the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In 1960, the Washington, DC Court of Appeals stated in Dudley v. Meadowbrook, Inc.: “We think the sound and practical rule is that liability in such cases is to be determined by the test of negligence and that a landowner should be held to the duty of common prudence in maintaining his property, including trees thereon, in such a way as to prevent injury to his neighbor’s property.”. In some cases a neighbor's tree may actually block a view of something unpleasant -- such as a garbage collection site or freeway -- and the cutting down of trees may … What are the legal rights of a property owner to remove or trim or alter their neighbor’s trees? There arefivemain Accordingly, judges faced with such tree-falling cases began to carve out exceptions to the common law. From the several theories that have been developed on this subject, the three Maryland courts involved in the Melnick decision adopted the “Massachusetts Rule,” which limits the remedy of the landowner who is harmed to self-help in almost all circumstances. Excluded from this duty would be rural landowners and suburban forest landowners. Maryland law on tree liability is the general rules of negligence. In Fancher v. Fagella, 274 Va. 549, 650 S.E.2d 519 (2007), the Supreme Court of Virginia overruled the 1939 case that established the “Virginia Rule,” which imposed liability if, but only if, a tree or plant was “noxious.” In Fancher, that court found that roots and branches of a sweet gum tree growing from the property of an adjoiner are a nuisance where they cause actual harm or the imminent danger of actual harm, and that forced removal of the tree was a possible remedy. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established. Minneapolis. 1061 (D. Md. Mr. Galvin explained that although most people think lawsare onlyfound incode books, most"tree law"ismorelikelytobefound incase lawmade bythe courts asit isto be found instatutes. A Buffer Management Plan is required for all removal of vegetation within the Buffer except for mowing an existing lawn. 2002. Instead, the landowner is limited to the self-help remedy of cutting encroaching branches, vines, and roots back to the property line without the right to reimbursement from the adjoining landowner for any damages and without the right to compel removal of the offending tree or plant. The lot behind my lot has a large pine tree that is indisputably dead. That decision was affirmed on appeal by the Court of Special Appeals and also by the Court of Appeals. This was so even though, according to the complaint, the setting was an urban environment, the tree had exhibited visible and open signs of decay for years, and the landowner should have known of the hazard created. Phone: (301) 291-5027 Further, just a few years ago, the Virginia Supreme Court decided not to extend the Fancher responsibility ruling to rural settings. Image by Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay Maryland’s spite fence disputes are usually governed by the state’s nuisance laws. Hiring an attorney is an important decision which should not be based solely on advertising. With intense summer storms, hazardous and fallen tree liability is a huge issue in the state of Georgia. If I think I see a violation near the water, who do I call? The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. A casket is often the single greatest expense incurred after a death. Do I Need a Permit to Remove My Tree? Essentially, even for decaying or dead trees, a landowner is not liable if (a) he has no notice of his tree’s propensity for harm and (b) his tree is rural or suburban/rural (in contrast to an urban tree).” Judge Smalkin noted that urban tree-owners are deemed to have constructive notice of dead or decayed trees, but that the duty on urban dwellers is an exception to the general rule that a rural landowner does not have the duty to inspect for dangerous trees. (2) require certain persons to plant certain trees and to pay into a roadside tree replacement fund under certain circumstances; (3) require the County Executive to adopt regulations specifying certain roadside tree protection, conservation, and replacement standards; and (4) generally amend the law regarding streets and roads. Thus, both Virginia and Maryland have separate tree damages legal standards for rural and urban properties. Judge Smalkin cited Hensley for the proposition that “an owner of rural or suburban forest land is not liable for damage done by dead tree limbs falling onto the property or persons of others unless the tree constitutes a danger to lawful users of abutting public roads and the owner is aware or should be aware of the tree’s deteriorated condition. In contrast, § 840 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts (1977) imposes a duty on a landowner to abate the condition when the encroaching vegetation is “artificial” – that is, when it is a result of human activity – but not when it is “natural.” The Maryland Court of Appeals noted that only a minority of other courts have applied the Restatement rule because of the difficulty in determining whether a tree or its growth may be as a result of human activity. Nashville, TN Pihlaja, Steve and Lorrie Stromme. If the tree owner can show the tree fell due to the act of God and not due to disease, then the tree owner will typically not be liable for the damage. In the Shade of a Tree; Analyzing the Tree-Related Legal Problem. Any residents of Anchorage who intend to plant trees in their front yard should be su… From a reading of the cases cited above, the default answer would seem to be that each of the property owners should bear the cost of removal of the portion of the tree that ends up on that owner’s property. In another case to further clarify Maryland’s law, the Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals in Hensley v. Montgomery County found that a owner of rural or suburban land (here in Potomac, Maryland) is not specifically liable for any damage done by a dead tree branch falling onto another property unless the tree constitutes a “danger to lawful users of abutting public roads and the owner is aware or should be aware of the tree’s deteriorated condition.” However, an important question left open by the Maryland court was: What duty does the landowner have relative to learning the health of the rural trees on their rural or suburban property? 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