Boundary Trees

Boundary Trees
Boundary trees can sometimes be a cause for conflict between neighbors who do not agree on the usefulness or necessity of these shared trees. Provided is a summary of some of the Minnesota statutes in regards to boundary trees.

Boundary Tree Ownership

State law defines a boundary tree as one that is either planted on the boundary line between two lots or a tree whose branches, trunk or roots have crossed a boundary. The location of the tree trunk generally determines ownership. The owner of the tree has the authority to decide its future; he or she may choose to cut down the tree, despite the objection of neighbors. If two neighbors are co-owners of a true boundary-line tree, then neither can cut down the tree without the other's consent; both neighbors share the tree-care expenses and responsibilities equally.

Before Taking Action, Chat With The Neighbors

Before taking any action, be it trimming branches, involving the City or seeking legal action, have a face-to-face discussion with your neighbor and try to either compromise or reconcile the issue. It's not mandatory, but it's the neighborly thing to do.

A Neighbor's Branches / Roots Encroach Into My Yard

Property owners in every state have the right to trim the branches or roots of a neighbor's tree that encroach onto their property, up to the property line, at their own expense. This right is called "self-help." Self-help is an alternative to going to court. The rationale is that self-help prevents the wasteful use of the court system to resolve comparatively minor disputes. Visit the Tree Trimming page for more information.

Trimming Tips

  • Do not harm the health of the tree or destroy it. For example, cutting off too much of the canopy could jeopardize the tree's capacity to photosynthesize and cutting too much of the root system could cause the tree to become unstable and topple over. Pruning an Oak Tree between April and September could make the tree vulnerable to oak wilt, a fatal disease.
  • Do not trespass onto your neighbor's property to trim a tree or shrub.
  • Don't even lean over the property line to make the pruning cut, unless you have the neighbor's consent. Don't cut down a tree whose trunk is on the boundary line, unless you have the express consent of the owner on the other side of the boundary line.

If a Neighbor Cuts Down Your Tree

A Minnesota statute provides that whoever intentionally cuts down a tree without the tree owner's permission can be assessed three times ("treble") the amount of monetary loss suffered by the tree owner (Minnesota Statutes §541.04). If you're seeking compensation for the loss of a tree, it may cost you more to prove the value of your trees than to recover your loss. If coming to an agreement is not feasible, you will likely have to go to court. You can sue in Small Claims Court (called "Conciliation Court"), if your loss is $7,500 or less.

Nuisance Trees

A Minnesota statute defines a nuisance as, "Anything which is ... an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property, is a nuisance" (Minnesota Statutes §561.01). If a branch from the neighbor's tree rubs against your roof, if the roots push up your sidewalk or if low-hanging branches are taking up space in your yard - if that tree interferes with the free use and enjoyment of your own property, then the tree has become a nuisance.

More Information

Much of the information on this page has been provided by Lorrie Stromme, attorney, horticulturist and master gardener, and is intended to be educational - not for legal advice. For more information about Minnesota tree laws, email the University of Minnesota Forest Resources Department or call their Outreach and Extension Tree Information Line at 612-624-3020. For Edina-specific questions, contact City Forester, Luther Overholt.