Privacy Hedge on Property Line

nevdrachey(z6 NY)June 7, 2006

I need confirmation of the law as to responsibility for triming a privacy hedge dividing two back yards.

I bought a house with an existing privacy hedge that runs the length of the yard on one side, approx 40-50 feet. The hedge is on my property, but is planted along the property line with a waste high fence being the final division. From all anecdotal sources I have heard that each property owner is responsible for trimming perimeter growth and that my neighbor is responsible for trimming his side of the privacy hedge. I would just like confirmation that this is the law. I live in Hudson Valley - New York State.

Thanks for any enlightenment you can offer.

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saypoint(6b CT)

Laws may differ somewhat from place to place, but as far as I am aware, if the hedge is yours (on your property) you are responsible for trimming it. Ideally, you should plant hedges inside the line, far enough that you can maintain the outside of it from your own property, because the neighbor is not required to allow you on his property to maintain it, and in fact, may be liable if you are injured while on his property.

If parts of the hedge overhang the property line, and the neighbor wishes to, he can legally trim off anything that overhangs his property, but he is not required to do so.

If it was as you suggest, my neighbor could plant a hedge that would make additional maintenance work for me whether I agreed or not.

The neighborly thing to do would be to ask your neighbor's permission to enter his property to maintain the outside of your hedge, and then do it regularly.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2006 at 12:25PM
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nevdrachey(z6 NY)

Thanks for your response, although I believe that is eroneous information.

I believe the common practice in situations where a privacy hedge was planted at the property line is that both parties bordering the hedge are responsible for triming their side. The reasons for this are several:

1) Both parties gain the benefit of privacy;

2) It is onerous and fraught with complications to have to gain entry to another party's property to trim the hedge;

3) As you stated, the other party is liable for any accidents occuring on their property;

4) Most pertinent in this situation, the topography here was preexisting to my purchase of the land. Were I at this point wishing to impose this job upon my neighbor, then I would of course seek their permission, or more realisticly, I would leave room to trim from my side. However, this hedge existed for many years before my purchase and my neighbor should be accustomed to triming his perimeter growth, of which this hedge is merely a part. He trims the perimeter growth from the other areas of his land. He either bought his house knowing this was the topography, or was present when the hedge was put in. Either way he implicitly agreed to live with the situation;

5) Furthermore, I must trim perimeter growth of a rather large nature from my neighbors' land in the back and have had no offer from this neighbor to enter my land for this purpose - I have never even seen this neighbor. I would therefore be trimming perimeter growth from my neighbors and, then, for my neighbors. As I said my neighbor to the side implicitly acknowledges this responsibility as he trims the perimeter growth on the remainder of his land;

6) To have to enter my neighbor's land to trim this hedge would mean there was a penalty for buying this land - that of having to gain access to my neighbor's land, and that I did not have the right to purchase the land landscapped as it was - which I believe is not the case; and

7) Finally, I do not believe the neighbor on the otherside of the hedge would enter my land for the purpose of trimming this side of the hedge were the situations reversed. You can say this is speculation, but you would have to live here to know it to be the case.

In sum, while I would not impose a cause for friction, the landscaping was preexisting and owners must acknowledge unwanted and perhaps unpleasant realities of ownership, one of which is dealing with the land as it lies.

If someone is familiar with a factual statement of law, I would appreciate that response as well.

Thanks again

    Bookmark   June 7, 2006 at 11:30PM
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Well. I guess you really don't want to trim his "side" of the hedge. How about should probably contact your town and/or state for a FACTUAL answer to this problem. We are gardeners here, not necessarily lawyers, nor New York lawmakers.

And/or, you could just hire someone to trim, and approach your neighbor about halfing the cost. I have had the hemlocks on both sides of my property trimmed and sprayed (for that nasty disease). Although the hemlocks are on the property line on each side of my home, I take responsbility for them. Honestly it is NOT that expensive to do so, and it makes my neighbors say, "hey, thanks". I believe, however, that if I asked to split the (relatively small) cost of upkeeping that they would say yes. (By the way, the hemlocks extended at least 150 feet on either side of my property...and it still is not expensive to maintain them.)

Sometimes a little money invested is worth it in terms of good relationships.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 6:00AM
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triciae(Zone 7 Coastal SE CT)

I am not an attorney but my husband IS. I read him your original post. He asked about the waist-high fence. Is that fence on your property? You noted that the hedge was inside your property line. My husband said that you are responsible for maintaining the hedge & the fence (if that also is inside your property line). If it's on your's yours...period. If you can't maintain the hedge without trespassing on your neighbor's must obtain their permission before entering their property to maintain the hedge. Your neighbor has no responsibility to maintain anything planted on your property. It does not matter whether the hedge was pre-existing when you purchased the property or whether your neighbor has previously pruned his side of the hedge...he has no responsiblity to continue to do so. The only exception would be a legal, written document to the contrary which is unlikely. Your neighbor does have the RIGHT to prune away any of your plantings that might/are infringing on his property. But, again, he does not have to do so.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 9:36AM
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saypoint(6b CT)

The neighbor may not be trimming his side of your hedge because he believes it is your property and he has no right to do so without your permission, unless it is overhanging the line and is bothering him. If it's not bothering him, or even if it is bothering him, he may be refraining from trimming because he's being a nice neighbor and doesn't want to step on your toes, or your hedge, in this case.

Have you spoken to the neighbor about it? I'm sensing an adversarial tone, and it sounds like you are demanding that the neighbor do his duty and trim your hedge. He's not under any obligation to do so, regardless of how long the hedge has been there, or what you thought about it when you bought the property.

If trimming the hedge is a problem, why not just remove it and be done with it?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 10:29AM
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Most pertinent in this situation, the topography here was preexisting to my purchase of the land.

Actually, that isn't pertinent at all. Either it's on your land and you are responsible, or it's on his land and he's responsible.

Sure, it's neighborly to do your own side. Have you talked to him about it? Maybe he hates it and wants it gone. Maybe he doesn't know you want him to do his side. Maybe he doesn't like it when you trim the stuff that's on his property, but knows it's your right to do so. You could learn a lot about what's going on with a simple, neighborly, friendly chat.

Why, exactly, don't you want to do both sides? It is your hedge, and you knew that when you bought the property, right? Did anybody guarantee that you would only have to trim one side?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 9:19PM
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nevdrachey(z6 NY)

Thanks so much for taking the time to obtain a knowledgeable answer. I am pursuing an answer from my town but am getting a bit of a run around and was hoping to rely on your experience and generosity of spirit. I didn't provide more of the situation in my original postings to avoid a debate when I really just wanted some facts.

Its not that I wish my neighbor to trim his side of the hedges and the fence has not been a question, though I believe it is my neighbor's fence.
I do not care at all if my neighbor ever trims his side of the hedge.

The problem is that my neighbor wishes me to trim the hedges from his side and, in other words, from his property. I am expected to gain entrance to his property by walking around his house by the street and then drag my equipment over the fence, ladder, etc. I had assumed in purchasing the property that we would each trim our respective sides as I believe is the custom in most areas I have inquired about where this is a "shared" privacy hedge. The problem arises in his expectation of my performance of service for him. He believes it is my duty to enter his property and perform this work. I believe most people would find this objectionable - both for its legacy of blame and for its unexpectedness.

As I stated in my post I must trim perimeter growth from another neighbor, and that is truly what the hedge is for this neighbor, perimeter growth. Further, I am not responsible for his prior inability to reach another outcome with the previous owner. I made no agreement to spend future years gaining access to his property to perform what I believe is usually a mutual task, as both sides share the benefit of privacy.

But, to the point, I believe I have no obligation to do so. I did not cause this situation and going forward, this is now simply the lay of the land - his perimeter growth on this side of his yard versus everyone's perimeter growth.

In terms of splitting the cost of someone to trim the hedges, it supposes upon me an inheritance of injury to him from the prior owners placing of the hedge on the property line. I do not believe I inherit reponsibility for what he may consider an injury when it is now simply a fact of life.

In the future, if I find it feasible to replace the hedge with a shrub that will not grow in his direction, I will do so. However that is not now a possibility.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2006 at 4:42AM
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Oh, I see the problem. You are in the wrong forum. You wanted the Legal Rights and Responsiblities of Hudson Valley Home Owners with Regard to Hedges Forum.


    Bookmark   June 9, 2006 at 6:33AM
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saypoint(6b CT)

My Dear Mr. McCawber,

When you bought the hedge, you bought the responsibility of maintaining it. I have never found it to be the "custom" to require a neighbor to maintain your property, ie. the hedge. Trim it, remove it, or be a bad neighbor, your choice.

In sum, Patty is correct. You are in the wrong forum.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2006 at 10:56AM
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Actually, I begin to see the problem.

It was my impression that you wanted the hedge trimmed on both sides, and wanted to make your neighbor trim his side. This is of course silly; you can't make your neighbor do something on his own property, unless there are some serious extenuating circumstances or a homeowner's association agreement or some such.

But now I see that your neighbor is the silly one; he wants the hedge trimmed, but he doesn't want to do it himself. Of course he can't make you trim his side anymore than you can make him trim his side.

Would he be willing to make some concession? Would he provide a gate in his fence for you to get through in a place convenient for you to do so? Could you lend him the equipment you use to trim your side? Could you both agree to split the cost of having a service do this?

It's really too bad a friendly solution can't be found. I used to work in my hometown's town hall and I got calls like this all the time: "My neighbor isn't mowing his lawn often enough. Is there any legal recourse?" Um, no. "My neighbor's tree is shading my tomato garden. Is there any legal recourse?" Um, no. "My neighbor's hedge is too tall/short/wide/messy. Is there any legal recourse?"

Um, no. If your neighbor is a jerk, you are perfectly within your rights, I think, to refuse to enter his property and trim the part of the hedge on his property. However, neighbor wars are ugly and I sure hope you can come to an amicable solution.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2006 at 1:10PM
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nevdrachey(z6 NY)

As I wrote to Regina and others, thanks for taking the time to help, I think I got the information I was looking for.

As to Saypoint - whose reference to McCawber I don't get (perhaps Dickens' Micawber?) but, which I take it you mean as a slight - and Patty - your rudeness and rush to judgment mean that you are in the wrong place. A forum is supposed to be for enlightenment. A question asking about the social aspects of tending to growth in close quarters with neighbors and extending to the legal basis for beliefs is not only within the realm a quest to understand gardening, but should be of interest to anyone who cares about the responsibilities you so blithely refer to.

Too bad you can't see your responsibility to carry out an exchange of information with the responsibility of having respect for, and interest in, the varied situations responsible people may find themselves in.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 5:29AM
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Nev, you have a mean neighbor. You need to find a way to deal with that.

However, seeing that in the time you've been a member of GardenWeb you have posted a total of two times...both times about this hedge issue...I think it unwise and ignorant of you to attempt to cast aspersions on Saypoint and me. A search of these forums will reveal that she and I have responded to a wide range of garden-related issues. Saypoint, in particular, is usually a source of inspired, relevant, and generous assistance.


    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 7:04AM
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nevdrachey(z6 NY)


Would 30-100 postings allow me to call you and Saypoint on your rudeness? My postings sought only to cite the facts as I know them and my perspective in hopes of a dialogue and a view of differing perspectives. At no point did I belittle anyone's opinion or invite them to drop out of the conversation. On the contrary, I always expressed my thanks.

You on the other hand invited me to join another forum - and please direct me to it since it appears you are now claiming not to have been mocking - and Saypoint begins by calling me a name before doing the same.

It is interesting to hear of your positive opinion of yourself and to that of Saypoint being inspired, relevant and generaous. This time I would say she has dropped the ball.

It is also interesting to hear the term "rude" referred to as an aspersion when applied to you attempt so to slight me.

You now say I have a "mean neighbor" whereas Saypoint indicates I do not wish to live up to a "responsibility". Hmm... So perhaps a dialogue was in order.

The only hostility here has come from you and Saypoint - I merely point to it.

Finally, I'll post regarding my concerns when I please. And when I am able to help, I'll post then too. Otherwise, unlike you and Saypoint, I'll remain silent. You should take note, as that would be neither unwise, nor ignorant.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 7:59AM
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If it was me, and I had a hedge that was planted on my property, but encroached upon my neighbourÂs property, I would feel that the neighbourly thing to do would be to take care of the hedge. Afterall, either I planted it on my property, or moved into a house with the hedge planted on my property.

I would imagine that my neighbour wouldnÂt take too kindly to something that was on my property was encroaching on theirs. The least I could do would be to maintain that hedge  at my own expense. Neighbour didnÂt ask for it.

If I was the other neighbour  and someoneÂs hedge was encroaching on my property  heck, I wouldnÂt even allow them to enter my property to maintain it  so, I guess we would have a sticky situation there. You should be happy that the neighbour will allow you to enter their property to maintain *your* hedge.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2006 at 8:52AM
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Hmm, that didn't sound quite right - lol. If your neighbour decides to be Âneighbourly and allows you access to their property, this is their business, but it probably isnÂt a very good idea, either (legally speaking). I guess to solve the problem for everyone  hedges should be kept well within someoneÂs property line in order for them to maintain their hedge.

If both parties agree to a hedge that bypasses each other's property line  I would think, legally, it would be in the best interest for each party to maintain their side.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2006 at 9:49AM
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buttercupia(zone4 IA)

Well, I happen to have some trees which, perhaps unfortunately, reach out over the neighbor's yard.. I have told them that if they want, they can cut out any of the branches they want, or the trees if they'd like, or that I'd take out the trees if they didn't like them.. One is a black walnut and every other year we have to scurry around to pick up the fruits all over their lawn and off the roof of their summer house. Fortunately they are nice reasonable people who don't let it bother them, at least so far, and if they do say anything, we'll do our best to cooperate to make peace. I can understand that you might not want to take the time to trim his side of it .. trimming large hedges can be a real chore. Tell your neighbor he can trim out whatever he wants from his side.. and if he really doesn't like it there, that you'll remove the hedge and replace it with one that doesn't reach over so far.. He might just say.. that's ok, don't bother.. no big deal... maybe it doesn't really matter as much as you think? And if he does want you to replace it, well, that's what you were willing to do anyway, so do it with a happy heart and a love for your neighbor!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2006 at 9:40PM
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nevdrachey(z6 NY)

Dee Can and Buttercupia, thanks for your thoughts. It does seem to me that everyone really does begin to see the delima when they really consider entering another person's property. I always intended to tend to my hedge, but didn't see until the summer after having moved in in the winter that there was no way simply from my side. The only way is to enter the neighbor's fenced in yard.

Well, you there have the beginning of legal problems and logistics. I would love to move the hedges and be done, but I just bought a house and that's not a possibility right now financially.

I wrote because it was expressed to me strenuously by many that in this situation of a "shared" hedge and the dual benefit of privacy, the respective parties tend their side. Not only that. This is in essence perimeter growth which all those around are trimming without complaint, including myself, so why the difference? This to me is a major point.

Contrary to the impression some have garnered about what I "want" to do, I spent last summer doing just what I described, entering their yard and trimming the hedge - avoiding the dog, calling ahead, and even climbing a fence with the help of a ladder. I know we can discuss making it easier to get in, but I needed to know if going to this extreme seemed out of place. At the strong urging of friends did I write to see what common wisdom there might be in this group or common experience. I actually turned to the "Shrub" forum in remembering the advice to do so last year from another section of this site.

It does make many pause, it seems, to have to enter another's yard. In any event, I wanted to know what was common when faced with this situation and what prevailing wisdom there might be before speaking further with the neighbor.

Thanks so much for your help.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2006 at 9:20AM
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lorrainebecker(z6 CT)

It IS a pain having to access the other person's property, but that comes with a hedge.

My last house had a hedge that was right on the property line. As soon as I moved in, the neighbor came over to ask me to remove it. So I knew how he felt about the hedge. Three times every summer, I went over to his property and trimmed the side along his driveway. It took less than half an hour, and I paid his son to pick up the trimmings for me. To make access easier, I took out one shrub, making a small gap that I could get through with my trimmer.

What kind of relationship do you want to have with these people? You don't have to maintain their side, and when they get fed up they can trim it back themselves. Or if you want to be friends, you can tell them you'll keep doing the trimming but you need better access. I'm sure you know that, though.

p.s. Your writing style does bring Mr. Micawber to mind. :)

    Bookmark   June 14, 2006 at 1:24PM
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Well, ideally both parties agree and are present when the hedge is installed and install it right on the property line with no particular owner. The benefit here is that each must maintain their side. The downside comes when one no longer wishes to maintain their side and wants to tear the sucker down. People move over the years too. Imagine yuo move into a home with 200' of hedge originally planted on your neighbors property. Imagine that you could care less if the hedge is there or not but you do NOT want to maintain it. I would think the neighbor SHOULD maintain it both sides. What if he / she refuses? What if you trim the stuff on your side and it dies? It could get messy thats for sure.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2008 at 10:12AM
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There is a hedge between my neighbor's house and mine as well but it is on the property line. Although we trim the sides, we would like to let it grow higher, 6' or better as it helps maintain privacy between our houses. If trimmed, the neighbor's livingroom window looks directly into our bedroom window. My neighbor wants to trim the hedge down to about 3' high despite my request not to do so.

Anything I can do?

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 2:47AM
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