Tree FAQ Revised 4/12/2021

Tree FAQ

The Village of Yellow Springs offers this FAQ to assist Village residents with respect to resolving tree and vegetation issues between neighbors. You may need to hire you own legal counsel if you are not able to peaceably resolve your issues through mediation or other means. The Village cannot give legal advice to private persons.

Often, no matter what law applies, it's better to spend money to fix a situation instead of paying attorney fees while losing a good relationship with your neighbor.


Other than public rights-of-way such as utility easements dedicated on a plat, or otherwise recorded, the Village does not issue orders for owners to clear or cut trees, but the Village does investigate complaints regarding nuisance conditions and noxious weeds which are regulated by Chapter 674 of the Village Codified Ordinances.


In general, property owners own the land and the airspace above it, so they can cut overhanging branches and limbs back to their property line but no further without permission.  No one can trespass to trim parts of a tree on another's property. O.R.C. 901.51 and Village Code 642.04 both prohibit “reckless” cutting or injury and imposes triple damages if vegetation is harmed without permission. If a person who is convicted of the fourth-degree misdemeanor, they face a penalty up to $250 and/or 30 days in jail as well as paying triple damages to the property owner whose vegetation was injured.


Section Village Code 674.01 applies to trees and vegetation overhanging a “public street, bicycle path, multi-use path or sidewalk” and also the Village’s electrical distribution and other utility easements. Section 1470.02 of the Village Code also allows the Village to remove trees and assess the cost of removal to the property owner as a nuisance action if the tree “shall or may endanger the health, life, limb or property of, or cause any hurt, harm, inconvenience, discomfort, damage or injury to, any one or more persons in the Village by reason of being detrimental to the general health of the Community.”


  1. Most of a big tree hangs over my yard, but the trunk is on my neighbor's property. Who owns the tree?

Your neighbor. You can cut the branches back to your property line, but if the tree dies as a result, your neighbor may have a claim against you. If the trunk is growing on the property line, it is called a boundary tree, and all the owners, including you, are responsible for caring for the tree. Generally, one co-owner may not remove a healthy tree without the other owners' permission.


  1. My neighbor killed my tree. Am I entitled to compensation?

Maybe. You can file a civil lawsuit, but any prosecution under the Ohio Revised Code or Village Code is subject to the discretion of a prosecutor and a higher burden of proof.


  1. My neighbor's tree looks like it's going to fall on my property any day now. What should I do?

Advise the neighbor in writing by certified mail and contact an arborist. Contact the Village if the tree is in a utility easement or right of way. You can trim back branches to your property line, and if the neighbor refuses to take action, you can sue if you can establish that the tree is a "nuisance" because it unreasonably interferes with your use of your property. You can request the court to order the tree owner to trim or remove the tree, but you’ll need proof that the tree does pose a risk to your property, and that you have notified the owner.


Liability is always a question for a court to determine. Typically property owners are not liable for damage caused by a falling tree (or limbs) from their property so long as they had no notice or reason to believe it was likely the tree would fall. A healthy tree struck by lightning or felled by strong winds would likely not be the fault or responsibility of the landowner, but if it’s dead, damaged, diseased or otherwise obvious that a tree or parts of it pose a serious risk of falling, the landowner would be liable.



  1. Am I liable for damages caused by the spreading roots of a tree on my land?

Maybe. The Village maintains sidewalks and public sanitary and storm sewers. If roots interfere with a private drainage system, the property owners benefited by that private system may sue you in a nuisance action.

If invading roots or branches cause serious harm to your neighbor's property, expect a lawsuit. "Serious harm" generally means structural damage such as damaged roofs or walls, crushed pipes, clogged sewers/septic systems, or cracked foundations.


The Village can also require removal of tree and vegetation species which are “invasive” or "noxious," based on definitions in the Ohio Revised Code and Village Code. While some of these species may not have been deliberately planted by the property owner, many of them were formerly popular as “ornamentals” in lawns and gardens.


  1. My neighbors complain that my tree is too tall; do I have to trim it?

Talk with your neighbors and find out exactly how much tree trimming they desire. If it’s not too much and doesn’t affect the health or aesthetics of your tree, ask if your neighbors are willing to split the cost. If you are firmly opposed to trimming for any reason other than cost, for example, if the tree screens your view of your neighbors’ back yard, tell them why you desire to maintain the current conditions.



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