Neighbor's overgrown yard blocking ours

Central_Cali369(Sunset Z9, Fresno, CA)July 14, 2008

Our house is located on a cul-de-sac, right where the road does the wide turn to go back out, so our house is kind of hidden from view until you are two houses away. Our front yard, in turn, is like the backdrop of our neighbor's front yard. I have a nice array of tree aloes (a. ferox, marlothii, arborescens, thraskii), tree ferns(cyathea cooperi, blechnum gibbum), palms (Syagrus Romanzoffiana, Howea Forsteriana, Ravenea Rivularis, Dypsis Decipiens, Dypsis Decaryi), tropical agaves (agave attenuata, desmettiana) and other exotics in the front yard, and would really like them to be visible, but our neighbor's yard completey blocks ours. The house is rented out, and new renters come and go, so the yard is very unkept. They have the standard allotment of shrubs and trees that new homes come with: an overgrown spirea, a messy and invasive pampass grass and a HUGE, unkept, overwatered chaste tree. That chaste tree is the one that completely blocks out yard from view unless you are standing directly in front of the house. It is nearly 20 feet tall and about 15 feet wide, and if i didn't trim the branches that overlap into our front yard, it would cover at least a third of our tiny front yard. As i said, it is overwatered so the flowering isn't as showy as it should be in a dry mediterranean climate. It looks ugly. Period. So i have been considering two things:

1. firstly, asking the owner of the house to remove the chaste tree. I could offer to provide a nicer looking tree in it's place. One that would have a defined trunk and allow a clear view from ground level, not like the chaste tree which is just a huge sprawling mess. I was thinking a Eucalyptus or a brachychiton populneus, both evergreen, flowering trees. (The neighbor's yard is large, ours is triangluar shaped with the narrow end near the street, hence our small front yard)

2. Give up on trying to have our yard visible from the street, and create a hedge that would hide the chaste tree from view from OUR house. A hedge of red oleander would work great to do this.

What to do?

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LOL...I can certainly appreciate your troubles. In my humble opinion, I would strongly advise against oleanders as they are so scrubby looking and litter the ground. Next to the chaste tree, it might look much worse. Also, if you have even mild allergies they will cause headaches and sneezes galore. Not to mention they remind one of Freeway 99 running through the valley...Enough said.

If you think the owner of the house is at all reasonable, I would leave them a note offering to pay to have the tree either trimmed, or removed/replaced. Many times what is obvious to everyone else is not so obvious to us - especially if they don't live onsite. Could be worth a try.

If not, a dense hedge will probably be the only way to go to block them out. Maybe cherry laurel or japanese blueberry for thickness and speed of growth? They have pretty dark green foliage without all the mess of oleanders and should grow just as dense and fast.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 3:48PM
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davidandkasie(Z8 MS)

eucalyptus is the WRONG choice. the limbs can easily get 50'+ and then it will overhang not only your yard but likely your house.

ask the owner nicely about trimming the tree. if he says ok, THEN ask the tenants. remember that as long as they rent the house they may have a say in how the trim is done.

if the owner declines, then plant your hedges. keep in mind tha tthe tree MAY have been planted the way it is so tha tit WOULD shield your house from theirs.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2008 at 1:29PM
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petzold6596(8b southern NM)

Check with your city's codes about the plant part growing over the property line. In all the communities I've lived, you have the right to trim the plant parts hanging over your property. If this is true, I would inform the neighbor about your pending action.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2008 at 6:19PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Petzold's on the right track; there is a legislative framework here.

You are under no obligation to provide room and board for your neighbour's vegetation, nor to carry the workload of root or canopy pruning it, raking its debris, etc. Nor should you have to plant a line of defensive shrubs.

I did some serious investigation of the legal issues involved last year as we had a neighbour who was refusing to cut down an enormous evergreen that was eating our house and totally using all the gardening space on our property. Fortunately they sold their house to some reasonable people who did the deed almost immediately upon taking possession.

The bottom line is that you have a right to peaceful enjoyment of property (I think that is consistent from Canada to the US) and so, of course, do they. But you have a duty not to interfere with each other. So, they should keep their vegetation within bounds, and you cannot go onto their property and kill or change their tree.

I should say that simply wanting your house to be visible is probably not a useful route to go, since they could probably park an RV on the spot as opposed to a tree; I don't think you have any recourse in that direction. You cannot seek to influence what they do ON their property. What you are legitimately concerned with is the impact on YOUR property.

What you have some say over are issues such as trespass, nuisance, and damage to your property. Don't take this as legal advice, but this would include damage to your foundation or your car if it overhangs a driveway (or maybe in my case I should have considered suing for the cost of the many plants I lost to root competition and suffocation from tree debris!). The issue of nuisance would have addressed the many hours I spent basically servicing the tree; cleaning up its poop, trimming it on my side, cleaning our eaves, and so on, as well as the windy nights spent comforting our children, and losing sleep ourselves, for fear that the tree would fall on us.

You should identify the issues explicitly, and pursue them from a legally rational point of view. Check just what your local ordinances require, but I think the right to peaceful enjoyment is an overarching one. In our case, it turned out that we had the right to cut both the roots and the canopy at the property line, and that we could have pursued its removal on the basis of danger. There is a huge body of legal cases on issues involving trees and neighbours.

Every court or bylaw enforcement officer will expect you to have tried to work this out with your neighbour yourself before calling for enforcement. So you should inform the owner of exactly what bothers you about the tree, and ask to discuss possible routes of action - if you would like it removed, offer to pay for half the cost of removal or pruning, by all means. We did pay half, and consider it money well spent, since they don't technically have to remove but only manage the thing. If you have problems in the discussion, sometimes it is a good thing to have sent a registered letter. Email, of course, also leaves a paper trail.

That may be more than you wanted to know, but it is to say that these issues can cause enormous rancour and stress if not dealt with with a clear head from the outset.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 8:24PM
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