Neighbor's tree(s) a serious problem for me... please help!

Muse

Lifer
Jul 11, 2001
37,231
7,965
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I've lived here since 1983. This is Berkeley, CA. Bought the house from owner in 2000, before that I rented with other people here. The house is next door to a corner apartment building that has maybe 10 tenants (guess). See 2 photos below, my house is on the right.

There's a cyclone fence (chain link) at the property line. They have a number of trees planted just on their side of the property line (there are none on my side). I've never met the owner, I got her first name from a tenant, didn't get her phone number (I am pretty sure I can get that from a tenant if I ask). So, I've had no communications with the owner of that apartment building.

I actually have a couple of issues. The trees are THE BIG ISSUE! The other issue is that I see what looks like the cast off from some kind of system they have, it's globs of synthetic material laying around. It's probably deteriorating insulation from heating ducts, is my thinking. That's a minor issue, but annoying. Like I say, the big problem is the trees, one in particular that's reached my house, rubs against it and is overhanging the roof at this point. Others overhang and drop foliage on my property (including my car, seen in the photos), and are also a problem for me, but the giant one you see is the biggest problem. That tree seems to be doing well, is growing fast even though it's been here since very likely the 1970's or before. It pushes against the cyclone fence at the property line, pushing it onto my side.

I don't have a lawyer. I figure (don't know the details) that vegetation overhanging my property that's rooted on my neighbor's property is fair game for me... I can trim it or have it trimmed by professionals. I've always done all of my own gardening, but this looks like a job for the pros.

However, as you see, what hangs over my property looks to be fully 1/2 of that tree! Dealing with this looks tricky.

A guy I know told me that before doing anything I should have a conversation with the owner. I have been putting it off, I have lots of other things I've been dealing with, but can't continue to put it off, that tree has been impinging on the house more and more and pretty quickly lately. A couple of years ago it was barely rubbing on the house, now it's just about shoving my house!

I guess the best case for me would be if the owner would agree that removing that tree would be in both our best interests. Maybe we could go in on it 50-50, don't know. She might say, no deal, whatever is done you pay for it. I figure it's a low rent apartment building and that some of the tenants are probably on public assistance. Some of the units turn over, others are very long time tenants.

Getting 100% of the portion of that tree that overhangs the property line removed without destroying the tree seems like close to an impossibility or at the least seems absurd! What would that look like? On their side that tree overhangs a concrete patio and I have to think the tree's roots and trunk aren't good for their patio, maybe the owner would agree. Between the trees and the fence there's some refuse, just junk that got their, was put there and sits there and is forgotten, not a lot but it's sorta gross, and of course I can see it through the cyclone fence.

I kind of think their tenants aren't attached to those trees (they don't hang out in that patio), the trees are kind of a wild tangle, including maybe 4-5 species, maybe more. They have a gardener or two (Asian family I think) come in once every few months to do routine maintenance for a few hours at most to the landscaping around the building, but they seldom do anything with those trees, haven't seen anything done in over a year. AFAIK, they've never touched that giant tree. What do you suggest?Tree against house 1.jpgTree against house 2.jpg
 
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Greenman

Lifer
Oct 15, 1999
20,202
4,983
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Check with the city of Berkeley about local ordinances, then speak to the owner of the apartment building. The tree is damaging your roof and needs to be trimmed way back. It's also a great way for rats and other vermin to access your house.
The tree in front looks like it's dead, should be removed if it is.
 

Muse

Lifer
Jul 11, 2001
37,231
7,965
136
Thanks, gotta check City of Berkeley website, I think that info will be there.

Yeah, I was noticing that tree in front looks dead, yesterday. Wasn't sure. I'm color blind, so harder for me to detect that.

I do hear what I figure are squirrels running on my roof, quite possibly getting on from that big tree. Used to have a very serious rats-in-the-attic problem years ago but eventually eliminated that by virtue of placing old fashioned rat traps in there. Must have gotten 15-20 of those critters before they gave up. Haven't seen or heard evidence of rats in the attic since the roof was completely torn off and replaced about 10 years ago.
 
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NutBucket

Lifer
Aug 30, 2000
27,026
541
126
Yeah, definitely trim back that tree at minimum. IMHO even if the neighbor says you pay to have it removed I would do it. It's much too close to your house.

Also, cyclone dense? Is that what you meant or did chain link autocorrect? Just curious as I've never heard the term cyclone.

Finally, there's cheap rent in Bezerkeley? I though everything was sky high due to the college. I guess I am mistaken.
 

Greenman

Lifer
Oct 15, 1999
20,202
4,983
136
Yeah, definitely trim back that tree at minimum. IMHO even if the neighbor says you pay to have it removed I would do it. It's much too close to your house.

Also, cyclone dense? Is that what you meant or did chain link autocorrect? Just curious as I've never heard the term cyclone.

Finally, there's cheap rent in Bezerkeley? I though everything was sky high due to the college. I guess I am mistaken.
Cyclone fence is commonly used to describe chain link fence around here. I think it was once (still might be) a brand name.

Cheap is relative. $3500 a month is a lot less than $5000 a month. Muses house is likely worth a million bucks. I guess that means we can hate him for being a 1%er and exerting his privilege over the poor people living next door.
;)
 
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NutBucket

Lifer
Aug 30, 2000
27,026
541
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Now that you mention it I do recall seeing a badge on some older fences with cyclone on it.
 

Muse

Lifer
Jul 11, 2001
37,231
7,965
136
Yeah, definitely trim back that tree at minimum. IMHO even if the neighbor says you pay to have it removed I would do it. It's much too close to your house.

Also, cyclone dense? Is that what you meant or did chain link autocorrect? Just curious as I've never heard the term cyclone.

Finally, there's cheap rent in Bezerkeley? I though everything was sky high due to the college. I guess I am mistaken.
I think I've heard the term "cyclone fence" when they refer to galvanized chainlink fencing around here. It's standard stuff, tough, seems to last indefinitely. Has about 2.5" vertical posts every, dunno, maybe 10 feet and that chain link that I suppose collapses when not pulled taught.

Not all housing the same here. Multi-unit cookie-cutter stucco apartment buildings have got to be cheaper than a lot of other housing around here. I have never asked one of those people what they're paying, but I figure it's relatively modest.
 

Muse

Lifer
Jul 11, 2001
37,231
7,965
136
Cyclone fence is commonly used to describe chain link fence around here. I think it was once (still might be) a brand name.

Cheap is relative. $3500 a month is a lot less than $5000 a month. Muses house is likely worth a million bucks. I guess that means we can hate him for being a 1%er and exerting his privilege over the poor people living next door.
;)
1%er? I don't think I fall in that category. Actually, I suspect that my house value may be below the median. It's certainly not where it needs to be to sell currently. Needs a lot of work right now!

Frankly, I don't think those people are paying $3500/month.
 

Greenman

Lifer
Oct 15, 1999
20,202
4,983
136
1%er? I don't think I fall in that category. Actually, I suspect that my house value may be below the median. It's certainly not where it needs to be to sell currently. Needs a lot of work right now!

Frankly, I don't think those people are paying $3500/month.
I'm just yanking your chain a bit. Please don't take it seriously.
 

Muse

Lifer
Jul 11, 2001
37,231
7,965
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I'm just yanking your chain a bit. Please don't take it seriously.
OK! :)

I'd love to walk away from this house with a check for 1M, but today's not that day! Well, if I could that AFTER improvements, that would be the thing. Not sure can do that.
 

BoomerD

No Lifer
Feb 26, 2006
62,449
10,779
136
IIRC, under California law, you have the right to prune/remove any part of your neighbor's tree that hangs over the property line...(with some limitations)

 

Sgt. York

Senior member
Mar 27, 2016
798
209
116
1%er? I don't think I fall in that category. Actually, I suspect that my house value may be below the median. It's certainly not where it needs to be to sell currently. Needs a lot of work right now!

Frankly, I don't think those people are paying $3500/month.

That's easy. Look it up on Zillow. It will give you a pretty good idea what it's worth.
 

FeuerFrei

Diamond Member
Mar 30, 2005
9,152
928
126
Insurance company might insist on limb clearance. Insurance company backing you might help neighbor "see the light."
 
Nov 20, 2009
10,043
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When winter comes I will be removing a couple of trees that are not mine. While they are on my neighbor's side of the property line, their fence is about four feet inside their property line and yet they are ignorant of it. What is worse is that these trees are starting to list in the direction of their fence, which means if they come down I just know this slum lord, who hasn't lived on the property in 12 years, will act like they were my trees and want restitution for fence repair.

The funny thing about my tract community is that all lots have back corners that are right smack on a manhole cover for the storm drains (not sewer drains) and the front corners of lots are the EMC owned and operated street lights. Makes it very simple to know your property lines. As others have suggested, the OP should determine the local ordinances first because you might be surprised. My county has what is essentially a beautification ordinance that requires the upkeep of street-facing properties regardless if the particular property is in an HOA controlled community or not. I imagine this is equivalent to the nuisance clause someone else pointed out.

Once that is know, look up the property owner, file a certified letter of concern along with the appropriate ordinance and give them a timeline if they do nothing and what will happen therein. I would easily cut that tree down if the owner hesitates to act accordingly.
 

lxskllr

No Lifer
Nov 30, 2004
57,276
7,425
126
I like the tree. Blocks the view of the ghetto. If it was me, I'd leave it, but trim it so it's off the house. I think most places allow trimming trees that are in your airspace. Historic trees are probably an exception.
 

NutBucket

Lifer
Aug 30, 2000
27,026
541
126
The tree is definitely good for privacy and he can definitely trim his side. I'd be concerned about the roots so close to the foundation and buckling the driveway.
 

Muse

Lifer
Jul 11, 2001
37,231
7,965
136
IIRC, under California law, you have the right to prune/remove any part of your neighbor's tree that hangs over the property line...(with some limitations)

Yeah, problem with that is it's not exactly practical or even reasonably possible to slice off the part of the biggest tree exactly where it crosses the property line. Maybe I can work out something with the owner, maybe even tree removal. I have no idea who she is at this point. I people who do tree trimming and removal for a business would have some practical advice. I'm wondering if I should talk to them (yeah, multiple companies) before talking to the owner. That way I am less likely to stick my foot in my mouth, say something stupid. Best to familiarize myself with the ins and outs before I deal with the owner, possibly.

Edit: Based on your Stimmel Law quotation there it appears that possibly the apartment building owner is on the hook here to eliminate the nuisance. Yeah, I need guidance! I wonder if I should talk to the city, tree trimmers/removers, or even a lawyer... before talking to the owner.

Well, next thing I'm going to do is check Berkeley's website, where I imagine the relevant ordinance is displayed. I have an appointment tomorrow morning to have gigabit internet installed here. After that, I'll dig into that website.
 
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Muse

Lifer
Jul 11, 2001
37,231
7,965
136
Insurance company might insist on limb clearance. Insurance company backing you might help neighbor "see the light."
So, call my insurance agent and ask him what to do? Bring in my insurance company in the hopes that they will intervene in some way?
 

Muse

Lifer
Jul 11, 2001
37,231
7,965
136
I like the tree. Blocks the view of the ghetto. If it was me, I'd leave it, but trim it so it's off the house. I think most places allow trimming trees that are in your airspace. Historic trees are probably an exception.
I have been thinking of trimming it myself, obviously I can (well, I haven't been reading the law, but have been under the impression that I'm allowed to trim what hangs over my property without consulting anyone). There's much I can reach and I have an electric pole saw and some ladders, including a ~10 foot symmetrical aluminum ladder (same steps on both sides, pretty sturdy). I can reach a ways up. I could get a lot, but at this point I think getting the real high stuff that's hanging over my roof is kind of iffy for me. Maybe from my roof (using the pole saw)! Pretty wild stuff. I had been thinking bring in some professionals, not something I do often, but sometimes there's no alternative.

I have two very aging plum trees (not dwarf!) that I've been thinking about removing for years. Even doing it myself! I have removed a fair amount of both, but the trees are quite alive still. One has a fair amount of dead wood on it, though.
 

Scarpozzi

Lifer
Jun 13, 2000
26,385
1,773
126
I personally like trees, but when they come in contact with your roof and siding, they should be pruned back. I had 30+ trees cut from my property line and I really kind of miss the shade they provided.

My wife and I planted 4 new trees in our front and side yards 2 weeks ago....so in another 5-10 years we'll hopefully have some more shade again at least in that part of the yard. Late afternoon Summer sun is brutal when you don't have something blocking the light.
 

FeuerFrei

Diamond Member
Mar 30, 2005
9,152
928
126
So, call my insurance agent and ask him what to do? Bring in my insurance company in the hopes that they will intervene in some way?
Just use it as ammo if the neighbor needs persuasion ... e.g. "I might lose my home insurance over this." Don't involve insurance company unless the neighbor is obstinate. IMO.
 

Muse

Lifer
Jul 11, 2001
37,231
7,965
136
I personally like trees, but when they come in contact with your roof and siding, they should be pruned back. I had 30+ trees cut from my property line and I really kind of miss the shade they provided.

My wife and I planted 4 new trees in our front and side yards 2 weeks ago....so in another 5-10 years we'll hopefully have some more shade again at least in that part of the yard. Late afternoon Summer sun is brutal when you don't have something blocking the light.
I LOVE trees, so many are really gorgeous. But trees near structures can be a problem... the roots can mess with the foundation, sidewalks, driveways, pipes, sewer lines, and you can have my problem where the branches and foliage reach walls, even overhanging a roof. Also, trees (a lot of them) shed, and that can be a real problem. I park my car in my driveway, as you can see in the OP, and the shed from the neighbors' trees makes a mess. Plus I have to trim what reaches through or over the fence and I have to rake and dispose.

I have never planted a tree! I really should have. I should have removed my plum trees by now and planted other trees. I still can. I think it smart to anticipate what will happen by and by. How is that tree apt to grow, how big. Dwarf fruit trees make sense in a lot of situations, especially in urban settings.

I see wonderful trees in the city, but there's a big tree in front of my house (that you can't see in the photos in the OP) that's really old and it's not a beautiful tree. I have wondered if it's within my power to have that tree removed and plant another tree in its place. It does provide some shade to my living room and porch, but I'm not sure how advantageous that is.
 

Muse

Lifer
Jul 11, 2001
37,231
7,965
136
Just use it as ammo if the neighbor needs persuasion ... e.g. "I might lose my home insurance over this." Don't involve insurance company unless the neighbor is obstinate. IMO.
I am afraid of involving my insurance company. I've never dealt with them directly, IIRC. My agent has always been the intermediary. The company has done things that struck me as unfriendly, for want of a better word, and the agent has been the good guy, kind of like a good cop, bad cop scenario. Kind of weird. Mostly, I ignore them because, well, I never have a claim!
 

crashtech

Lifer
Jan 4, 2013
10,511
2,104
146
I have skimmed the thread, did anyone mention simply hiring a tree trimmer? A reputable one will likely be aware of the law, and a preliminary discussion might prove illuminating.
 

Muse

Lifer
Jul 11, 2001
37,231
7,965
136
I have skimmed the thread, did anyone mention simply hiring a tree trimmer? A reputable one will likely be aware of the law, and a preliminary discussion might prove illuminating.
I think I'm the only person who mentioned that sort of thing. Yes, people who trim trees for a living will know a lot of the parameters, ins/outs, the law, tips, etc. I figured from the start (I've done nothing so far other than asking a neighbor who the owner is, I got a first name is all, and posting this thread), that I could call a handful of companies and get quotes and basic ideas. Still, I thought a good first step was posting here. I've learned a lot at Anandtech Forums.