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Is There Anything I Can Do If My Neighbor’s Tree is Blocking Sunlight?

In 1979, Robert Hazard wrote a song entitled “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”. The song was popularized years later when a then-30-year-old Cyndi Lauper released it as a cover. “I want to be the one to walk in the sun,” the song proudly declares.

Two Neighbors Chatting at The Gate to The House - Neighbors Tree Blocking Sunlight BlogLikewise, we understand that you also want to bask in the sun on occasion. So what do you do if your neighbor’s tree is blocking that sunlight? It’s an interesting dilemma. But Mr. Tree has decades of experience solving unique tree service problems and we have just the answer.

Talk to Your Neighbor

The best solution, of course, is to talk to your neighbor about the issue. Your neighbor may be wholly unaware that his or her tree is blocking valuable sunlight from coming into your yard. Bringing the matter to your neighbor’s attention could be enough to resolve the issue.

Some pruning by an experienced arborist could remedy the situation or you may be able to work out another compromise. However, if you’ve already spoken to your neighbor to no avail, there are other options worth exploring.

Did you know, for instance, that Portland offers a neighborhood mediation center? If you haven’t already approached your neighbor, mediators can provide tips on how best to broach the subject. Through one-on-one coaching, you can learn the tools you need to address the issue on your own. However, if you have already attempted to do so or would prefer that someone else steps in to handle the issue, you can take advantage of another service offered through the program.

So how does it all work? The mediation process is available to all Portland residents. To begin, simply contact Resolutions Northwest by phone. Once you’ve made the initial contact, a mediator will follow up with you and your neighbor to learn more about the situation and your respective positions. Then, the mediator will determine if an in-person mediation session would be beneficial.

If that’s the case, a two-hour session will be scheduled with you, your neighbor, and one or two mediators. Though mediators do not act as arbitrators and cannot make any sort of binding decision, they will be able to guide the discussion in a way that is productive to all parties involved. Potential solutions are explored and those that are agreed upon are placed in writing.

According to the group, over 94% of those who take part in mediation sessions report being satisfied with the outcome. And, the great tipping point is that the sessions are completely free.

For tips on how to approach your neighbor on your own or to prepare for mediation, review the info sheet here.

Know Your Rights

Mediation may work great for you and be the answer that you need to resolve your issues. But what if it isn’t? If that’s the case, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with local laws and city ordinances. This will help you know what rights you have when it comes to your neighbor’s tree blocking sunlight into your yard.

First, if the neighbor’s tree is infringing on your property, you have the right to prune back the branches that overhang into your yard. It’s important to note that you can only prune back the branches that cross over onto your property line, not the branches that are on your neighbor’s property. You must also get permission before going onto your neighbor’s property.

If you’re interested in doing this, it’s important to contact your local arborist to perform the pruning services. If you attempt to prune your neighbor’s tree yourself and unintentionally harm the tree, you could be responsible for up to three times the tree’s value in compensatory damages.

Aside from trimming back any branches that cross over the property line, there really isn’t much else you can legally do about your neighbor’s tree blocking sunlight from coming into your yard. As long as the tree isn’t posing a safety hazard, your neighbor has every right to maintain the tree in his or her yard.

If you live in a community that’s regulated by its own set of rules, however, you may want to consult with your management or homeowner’s association to see if there are any height limits that your neighbor must adhere to.

Pursue Legal Action

On the other hand, if your neighbor’s tree is deemed to be a hazard, you can take steps to have it removed. While it is your neighbor’s responsibility to have the tree regularly inspected and to keep it well maintained, you may want to contact your local arborist to perform an inspection of your own.

If your arborist determines that the tree is unsafe, you can request that your neighbor have it removed. If your neighbor refuses, you have the option of filing a nuisance claim with the court. If the court sides in your favor, it will order the tree’s removal.

Neighbor disputes can escalate quickly, so it’s important that you do everything you can to resolve the issue with your neighbor directly. If you’re unable to do so, try to involve an impartial third-party like a mediator to help you and your neighbor come to a fair resolution in the matter.

If all else fails, know your rights and act accordingly. We certainly understand that you “want to be the one to walk in the sun”, particularly in your own front yard, but there are certain limitations when your neighbor’s tree is the cause of the blocked sunlight. So try to soak up what you can and cannot do, and make the best of the situation.

While your neighbor’s tree may be blocking sunlight now, it could also make for a good shade tree during the summer months, potentially even contributing to your lower electric bill, so look on the bright side.