In the know: On tree nuisances, working with neighbors is key | News

In the know: On tree nuisances, working with neighbors is key | News

Editor’s note: “In the know” is a feature we run on occasion to explain things that our readers pass by in their daily lives. We like to have a little fun with it.

SMITHFIELD – Working toward compromise and a solution on trees providing unwanted shade over property lines are keys to avoiding a neighborly dispute, says one local tree warden.

Unless the tree is causing unnecessary danger, Smithfield Tree Warden Ed Kutchmanich said, property owners do not have much say over a neighbor’s trees.

Rhode Island State Law outlines rules that find it illegal and punishable by a fine for cutting down a neighbor’s tree. Generally, the state follows common law, allowing a person to cut the limbs of trees and shrubs that overhang onto their property. Roots from a neighbor’s tree can also be cut, according to the law.

Leaves are the responsibility of the owner of the property where they fall, according to Rhode Island state law.

Kutchmanich’s work is focused on town-owned trees, recommending that a tree be cut down or trimmed for safety issues or to help in town projects. He does not make recommendations for residents, although he said each town has its own set of rules for tree management.

Property owners are responsible for the care and maintenance of trees on their property, and as such, sometimes will need to remove dead, sick or dangerous trees. Should a tree or limb fall from a neighbor’s lot and cause damage to another’s property, the neighbor may be liable to make the situation whole under negligence law. The court will need to determine that the neighbor was negligent, and that the accident was not an “act of God,” said Kutchmanich.

“Each situation is a little tricky,” he said.

Trees preventing a person from the use and enjoyment of their property fall under the nuisance law, and can typically be handled with help from town or city ordinances.

If a resident is having an issue with a neighbor’s tree, Kutchmanich recommended reaching out to officials in one’s community to help walk through specific rules. But, he said, property owners can usually cut vertically above the property line to remove any unwanted overhanging limbs.

“It’s not that simple, but it is that simple,” he said.

Kutchmanich said residents should call a tree company to thin out the tree. In many situations, tree services can remove a few branches from an area of ​​the tree to find the relief the aggravated neighbor is seeking. Kutchmanich said he uses a sun-tracking app showing where the sun is shining every day of the year.

It might only be three-quarters of a limb needing to be cut to add five hours of sunlight.

“Maybe it’s just one big limb. That can save a lot of trees,” he said.

He said the best solution is for neighbors to pursue compromise.

“Usually when one wants to do one thing, and the other wants to do the other, they end up hating each other for the rest of their life,” he said.

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2022-08-11 10:00:00