The Emerald Ash Borer insect has wreaked havoc throughout much of PA and is migrating to surrounding Mid-Atlantic states. Dead ash tree removal is a must for property owners, but the responsibility burden can sometimes cause friction between neighbors. Pennsylvania Municipal Attorney, Gilbert P. High, Jr. weighs in.
I live in Southeastern Pennsylvania, and I’m trying to resolve a dispute with a neighbor about a dead ash tree that sits directly on our property line. When I moved into my house a few months ago, I had an arborist inspect the tree, and planned to have it trimmed.
I was advised that the ash tree is infected by the emerald ash borer beetle and is nearly completely dead. The arborist advised me to remove it quickly so that it does not fall on my shed directly under it and was given a quote of $1700.The thing is, the tree sits approximately on 25% of my property and 75% of my neighbor’s.
My understanding is that in PA, if a dead or dying tree sits on the property line, both the neighborly and legally required thing to do is to split the cost of removal. However, my neighbor stated that he did not care if it came down in my yard as it would be my responsibility to remove it if that occurred. The dead tree would not hit his house if it fell on his property, and he was not willing to contribute to its removal.
I was hoping to determine with a real estate lawyer familiar with tree removal laws if I had any legal recourse against him with regards to this removal. Or,f the cost of removal is low enough that I am better off just paying for the tree removal myself rather than trying to take legal action against my neighbor At the end of the day, I'm arguing with him over $850 and the principle of the matter. – Matthew P.
I believe your understanding of the PA tree law is correct. A property line tree is the joint and equal responsibility of the two property owners. If one party refuses to accept equal responsibility, legal action would have to be started – normally before a Montgomery County magistrate judge. The cost of commencing the action is not great, but, the cost of your relationship with your neighbor could be.
You might have some success in having a real estate attorney write to the neighbor, but that could be costly as well. The additional issue is that in order to remove the tree, your arborist may requires the neighbor’s permission, since going onto his property would be a trespass.
For you to be successful, legally you have to be able to prove where the property line is and prove that the tree was a hazard tree because it was dead. You’ll need a written opinion from the arborists and good pictures.
Many arborists in PA are rightfully reluctant to climb up an ash tree in order to remove it because it dies from the top down – so the top becomes very brittle and thus dangerous to climb. You have to deal with this right away. Best of luck!