My house is about 30 years old, and I’ve lived there for 25 years. Several years ago, my neighbour planted a cedar hedge to separate our yards. The roots and branches now extend about 12 inches over my side of the property line, and when the trees get heavy with snow, they lean into my driveway and lay across my deck. I’m not sure how to manage the situation since my neighbour and I don’t really get along. Help! – OVERGROWN
DEAR OVERGROWN: They say fences make good neighbours, unless that fence is a cedar hedge that’s obstructing your driveway and deck. Before deciding how to proceed, you need to locate your property line, and this can be done with a copy of your survey.
An original survey would have been drawn when the house was first built. Survey stakes may have been installed at that time, though it’s likely these have disappeared over the years. The underground survey rods should still be in place, and if necessary, a surveyor can locate these and install new survey stakes for you.
An easier and less expensive option would be to find a copy of the survey. Typically, this will be a single page document with a line diagram outlining the perimeter of your house and its distance from the property lines. You may have received a copy of the survey in the document package your lawyer gave you 25 years ago, when you first bought the house. If not, City Hall might have a copy. Each city has its own policies, but if a copy of your survey exists on file, you can likely see it by filing a Freedom of Information Act request. If no copy exists, you could pay for a new survey to be done, but this is not my first choice as it typically costs a few thousand dollars. In some instances, your Realtor may be find a survey through their land registry system for a nominal fee.
With a copy of your survey in hand, locate the property line by measuring the prescribed distance from the exact edge of your house. This will help you establish whether the trees in question are on your property or your neighbour’s. If the trees are planted in your neighbour’s yard and overhang yours, they’re considered part of nature (though you are permitted to trim the parts that fall on your side of the line). An extreme and often unnecessary approach is to cut off parts of the tree that overhang your property, though this is likely to damage the tree as well as your relationship with your neighbour. If the trees are planted fully on your property, they belong to you, and you can do whatever you want with them.
PRO TIP: You’ll likely be stuck with your neighbour for awhile, so keeping your relationship as cordial as possible can be helpful for both of you. Regardless of whose side of the line the trees are on, a calm and polite approach is likely the most productive. Unless you plan on moving, neighbours are like relatives – you can’t change them, so it’s best to work things out. #Advice #AskDavid #TheNegotiator
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