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.
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