Q: Who is responsible for maintaining trees on the property line?

A: This is a question that has been the subject of litigation in Massachusetts for more than 150 years. It has long been the rule inMassachusetts that a landowner may not hold a neighbor liable for damage caused by the neighbor’s healthy trees. If branches or roots intrude on to a neighbor’s land, that individual has the right to cut off the intruding branches and roots in order to protect their own property; however, they may not remove any more of the tree than what is overhanging their property.

Q:  What happens if water runoff from a neighbor’s property causes damage?

A: Neighbors have been litigating damages caused by water runoff for decades. For decades, Massachusetts has followed what is known as the “Reasonable Use Doctrine.” A land owner is able to make a reasonable use of their land, even if such use changes the flow of surface water and causes harm to neighboring properties. A property owner will only be liable for damages when their interference with the surface water flow is unreasonable. Reasonableness is a question of fact, based on consideration of many relevant factors.

The information and services provided through the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, by providing this service, assumes no actual or implied responsibility for any improper use of responses to questions through this service.  The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® will not be legally responsible for any potential misrepresentations or errors made by providing this service. For more information regarding these topics authorized callers should contact the MAR legal hotline at 800-370-5342 or e-mail at legalhotline@marealtor.com.