My neighbor's tree has huge branches hanging over the property line and above the area where I park my car. I have asked him to remove the branches because I fear damage to my car from sap and falling branches, but he will not. In Massachusetts, can he be held liable for any damage his tree causes? Anonymous.
Probably not. Massachusetts courts have held that a landowner's failure to prevent the falling of branches or sap from a healthy tree onto a neighbor's property cannot be the basis of a finding of negligence or private nuisance. The answer may be different if your neighbor has a dead or dying tree that he knows may pose a risk to you or your property. In other words, if the neighbor negligently allows a dying tree to remain in place, and that tree falls and causes damage to property, the property owner may have recourse. You are not helpless, however, in your efforts to protect your car. Massachusetts law recognizes a right of self-help with respect to roots and branches that intrude into or above your property. As long as you do your cutting at the property line and take care not to destroy the tree in question, you can prune any branches that overhang your property. for more information or to post a question, visit our MA Real Estate Law Discussion Forum.