Pennsylvania Tree Laws

Below is a primer on the municipal laws regarding trees along property lines and public rights of way in Pennsylvania Municipalities.

Pennsylvanians need to understand their rights and liabilities concerning hazard trees and property line laws. With the rapid infestation of invasive tree pests like the Spotted Lanternfly and Emerald Ash Borer in Pennsylvania, many residents are being forced to ask about dead tree removal laws along property lines and public right-of-ways.

If your Neighbor’s tree along your property line is a hazard

If the hazard tree is along your property line, but is considered to be the neighbor’s tree, notify them immediately and request they remove it. If they refuse to do so, you can hire an arborist to remove the portion of the tree that overhangs your property. You can then require your neighbor to reimburse you for the cost. If all or any portion of a hazard tree falls on your property, and your neighbor was aware of or should have known that it was dangerous, your neighbor is responsible for any damage that you suffered, including your cost of removal.

If your Neighbor’s tree along your property line is not shown to be a hazard

If your neighbor’s tree falls onto your property and is not shown to have been a hazard, the neighbor will not be deemed negligent. Not only must you clean up your neighbor’s healthy but fallen tree, but you have to give your neighbor the opportunity to claim their wood! If your neighbor’s property line tree falls onto your property, call an arborist to inspect the tree and advise if it was defective and if the neighbor should have been aware of its condition.

Can I cut overhanging branches from my neighbor's tree?
Can my neighbor cut overhanging branches from my tree?

The owner of a tree can cut it down or trim its branches without the permission of their neighbor at anytime, but they are also solely responsible for any damage that the tree causes to their neighbor's property. This even applies to cases where the property owner's tree roots are causing damage to a neighbor's property.

In the 1990s, the Commonwealth court ruled that overhanging branches AND the roots are considered a trespass, and the neighbor whose property is being trespassed upon can remove the overhanging branches or roots. They can then sue the owner of the tree for the cost of removing the branches or roots. 

If the dead or dying tree is directly on the property line

In this case, you jointly own the tree with your neighbor and you are empowered to both share the cost of the tree’s removal.

If the dead or dying tree is within a public right of way

Even if your town has maintained a tree over the years, don’t expect the municipality to pay for its removal. Although PA municipalities control the use of streets, including trees growing within the street’s limits, the municipality has the right to impose the cost of tree removal on abutting property owners. If your local municipality chooses not to bill you, that is their option. Even if they have done so in the past, don’t expect municipalities to continue to front the bill. In the face of the extraordinary cost of removal and the scope of current and future tree blight numbers, deferment is probable.

emerald ash borer destruction of pennsylvania tree
Emerald Ash Borer larvae cause destruction under the bark of Pennsylvania Ash Trees.

To remove any public right of way tree, you’ll need permission from the municipality

It’s essential to remember that local government controls trees in the public right of way and is responsible if they fail to remove a hazard tree after notice. The property owner should notify the municipality of the hazard tree and ask that it be removed. Keep a copy of that notice for future records.

Schedule to have the hazardous tree taken down immediately

Homeowners experiencing dead or dying trees proximate to buildings, driveways, patios, sidewalks, and streets do not have the luxury of removing that tree at a future date. A dead tree can quickly become brittle and fall from its own weight in as little as 18 months from the point of infection. Ash trees affected by the Emerald Ash Borer will die from the top down. If you suddenly find that your ash tree is largely dead, the probability is that it has been dying for a long time when you didn’t notice. And if the tree is largely dead, you will likely not find an arborist willing to climb the tree to take it down. They will want to do the work safely with the use of a crane, which could significantly increase the cost of the tree’s removal.

Educate yourself regarding trees on your property, their health and hazards

Whether you are aware of it or not, a significant portion of Pennsylvania trees are currently under attack. The Emerald Ash Borer is a pest from Asia that has taken control of Ash trees in 35 states. It is killing them at such a remarkable rate that virtually none of the 8.7 billion ash trees in North America are expected to survive in the next five years. Cutting down infected trees in ineffective because the borers have a flying range of up to 20 miles. While the ecological threat to our nation’s forests is momentous, the financial impact on property owners residing within urban communities is potentially enormous. Ash trees can be gigantic, and the cost to remove them likewise.

spotted lanternfly on trees in pa
Spotted Lanternflies are easy to spot, no pun intended. Along with their spots and bright red accents, SLFs are planthoppers, which means they fly for short distances, which can look like hopping.

The Spotted Lanternfly is also causing many Pa residents to be concerned about hardwood and property line fruit trees. The SLF is an invasive insect discovered in Berks County of Southeastern Pennsylvania in 2014 and originates from Southeast Asia. Spotted lanternflies are not as selective as EABs regarding the trees they attack. Their preferred host is the “Tree of Heaven” or ailanthus but they are also reported to attack apple, Plum, cherry, peach, apricot, pine trees, even grape vines and hops. The economic impact could be enormous on the regions fruit, beer and wine industries. And because the Spotted Lanternfly lays its eggs on any surface including cars and trailers, a rapid outbreak is expected.

Be Preemptive regarding listed host trees

The Penn State Extension has an updated list of reported species and plants these pests prefer. It may be in your best interest to remove any listed trees, especially ash trees or trees of heaven, along any property line or area that could be seen as dangerous.


Don't see your answer here? Read Who's Responsible for That Tree?


Find a municipal lawyer near you with Pennsylvania Tree Laws experience

High Swartz municipal attorneys are here to answer your questions regarding trees on property lines, the laws governing them and public right of ways. Contact us here or call 610.275.0700. More information on Tree Law in Pennsylvania can be found at WeConservePA.

Co-Parenting Tips for Vacation Season

Follow These Co-Parenting Tips for Single Parents Seeking a Stress-Free Summer.

I developed this post to help parents and their family lawyers plan for the slew of legal co-parenting complications the summer might bring. Without the structure of school, even the tightest co-parenting plans face challenges.

Whether an uncoupling was friendly or not, it takes a concerted effort to find what works for each couple to co-parent successfully. Though every situation is different, and there is no recipe to guarantee positive family outcomes, this is practical advice from our family law firm for handling the legal aspects of these commonly-faced issues.

1) Communication is Key

Arranging a vacation is often a task that causes most to need a vacation! But, for separated, divorced, or single parents, planning a vacation for themselves and their children can be grueling.

Typically single parents have a custody agreement which serves as a parenting plan. However, the agreement may have been vague concerning vacations. Or, parents may not have their agreements finalized yet.

Unfortunately, co-parenting issues stemming from vacations typically present themselves at the last minute, after planning the getaway but communicating it to the other parent for the first time.

2) The Five Ws for Co-Parenting

To offer some co-parenting tips, we've tied vacation planning to these familiar "Five Ws":


When making vacation plans, parents must communicate early and often. Communication helps avoid any last-minute quarreling over changes. Some families start this process as early as March.

While communication between parents is crucial, kids should be left out of the arranging. The kids don't need to know WHO made special requests, WHO made unnecessary denials, or WHO spent more money. They just need to know that their parents worked hard for them so that they can enjoy their summers.


All vacation provisions and plans should be agreed upon and put in writing as soon as possible to avoid conflict. Parents should also share detailed vacation itineraries, or essentially, WHAT is happening on the trip. It must be a provision that you provide the non-attending parent with all details around accommodation, travel times, and activities so they feel at ease.

When considering what type of vacation to take, each parent should try to put themselves in the other's shoes. If one would be uncomfortable with a particular activity or accommodation, they shouldn't do anything similar when it's their turn for a trip.

Quick Tip: Cost is another important consideration when choosing a vacation. Parents must be realistic financially when it comes to vacation selection. Parents may have half the resources they had pre-split, and regardless of what's customary to the children or what the other parent can afford, they need to choose a vacation that is within their means.

Considering finances is also motivation to keep vacation planning peaceful – when parents disagree, they may spend significant funds paying family lawyers or mediators.


Family lawyers have the opportunity to prevent disputes by setting clear parameters in the parenting plan or custody agreement.

Every family is different and every divorce has its own unique spot on the amicable to nasty scale. So, each plan should be customized but clear to avoid any possible confusion down the road.

Some plans can be very specific WHEN each parent get which dates, such as Mom gets the third week in June, and Dad gets the third week in July. Others may just state that each parent gets one week, and dates must be finalized and communicated by a certain date.

Quick Tip: Parents should do their best to stick to the schedule. However, if they wish to deviate or don't have the plan outlined for any reason, respectful conversations should begin as soon as possible.


Everyone enjoys dreaming about WHERE they may go on their next vacation. But, for divorced and single parents, it's vital to be informed before the mind starts to wander.

If you have the means to travel outside of the country for vacation, there are specific rules regarding passports for children of divorce. Both parents must give consent before a passport is used for any child under the age of 16 unless one parent was granted sole custody- then only the custodial parent's signature is required. It is possible to get a passport without the signature of both parents but only for the child's health or a special family circumstance – not a vacation.

Quick Tip: Parents who cannot get their former spouse's support should contact a family law attorney. The most common course of action is petitioning the court to order the ex to sign the application. Parents on the opposing end should also reach out to their family lawyer after refusing to sign. It would be best if you communicated fears about abduction to family lawyers and the court.


Parents should be considerate, thoughtful, and respectful with their children's feelings in mind. Family lawyers should also have the same children-first mentality to guide families toward the best possible outcomes.

Quick Tip: When vacation planning gets stressful, it's to remember the reason for vacationing in the first place. Vacations should bring families closer together – not farther apart!

3) The Best Co-Parenting Tip!

The key to successful co-parenting is separating the personal relationship with your ex from the co-parenting relationship. Think of your relationship with your ex as new. Focus on the well-being of your children and not either of you.

Your marriage may be over, but your family is not. So it's critical to act in your kids' best interest -- always put their needs ahead of yours.


Joel D. Rosen Recognized by Hepatitis B Foundation of Doylestown

The Hepatitis B Foundation recently recognized our Managing Partner, Joel D. Rosen, Esq. for his decades of services as Chairman of the Board of Directors. Joel has been a board member since 2003, and chair of the Board from 2009 until he stepped down last month.

A conference room was named after him on their recently completed Doylestown Campus that spans over 10 acres. Included in the space are new labs for their scientists and a large meeting space for leadership of the Foundation, the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center (PABC) and the Blumberg Institute. The PABC is an incubator that houses the Institute’s labs and nearly 50 small companies.

Joel D Rosen Esq Conference Room in Doylestown

Pictured along with Joel is Tim M. Block, PhD, (left) Executive Chair of the Hepatitis B Foundation Board, and Louis P. Kassa, III, MPA, President of the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center (PABC) and Interim Chief Executive Officer of the PABC, Hepatitis B Foundation and Blumberg Institute.

Joel D Rosen, Lous Kassa and Tim Block