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Tree Trimming and Maintenance: Common HOA Tree Policy Questions

Here are questions that will help you to resolve disputes for maintaining or removing trees and planning ahead.
Stacy Titleman | May 25, 2024 | 3 min read
tree trimming

Many times HOA community board members have to answer questions about landscaping and specifically regarding trees. It is not uncommon to find that a tree or many trees need to be pruned or removed for one reason or another. Some questions community members ask are who should remove the tree? Should the property owner take responsibility? What does the HOA tree policy say about tree removal? Here are questions that will help you to resolve disputes for maintaining or removing trees and planning ahead.

HOA Tree Policy—How do you determine the owner of the tree?

A dispute may arise between two neighbors concerning who owns a tree that needs to be cut or trimmed. The base of the tree in question may be on the side of one neighbor's property, while the roots and foliage of the tree may be on the other neighbor's property. In this scenario, you can use state laws to determine ownership.

For example, in California, the property in which the trunk of the tree fully sits is the owner of the tree. If the trunk is partly on two properties, the owners of the two properties share the ownership of the tree. If a tree is in a common area, the association owns it unless the HOA governing documents state otherwise.

Tree Maintenance Concerns—Why should a tree be removed?

Removal of a tree may be necessary for various reasons, including hazard concerns. When a tree is planted too close to a house, it can damage the exterior of the house. Other safety issues that can cause injuries are overgrown limbs or the tree becomes messy and difficult to maintain. Another reason can be the association, or a neighbor might have overplanted trees, and the trees are causing privacy issues.

When trees cause these problems, it becomes necessary for them to be properly maintained or removed. The association is responsible for the removal or maintenance of trees in common areas that are causing problems. For example, a tree in a common area may be damaging a homeowner's patio. If a homeowner's tree is damaging a neighbor's walkway, you should inform the homeowner that he or she should pay the bill for its removal.

Common Tree Guidelines in HOA's Governing Documents

Tree removal disputes can become long and sometimes messy. Board members can clearly state the terms and the processes for removing a tree within the community according to HOA policy. The association should make sure that the governing documents specify essential information like view conservation, tree planting guidelines, and maintenance. It should clearly state what determines tree removal. Consult governing documents and speak to licensed community professionals about the process.

In some instances, the HOA policy documents may leave these decisions to you as the board members. You can then handle them case by case. In such a scenario, it means the board can make a decision in case of a dispute, and the parties involved will need to respect it. The board should also consider how tree removal will affect the community as trees are considered a community asset.

It is essential to prepare for future tree trimming, maintenance, and removal. Consulting with landscaping professionals before trees are planted can reduce the likelihood of modification and reduce disputes. Knowing and understanding local laws regarding tree maintenance and removal helps settle disputes among neighbors and answer their questions. As board members, you should review your current governing documents and ensure they are clear and precise. The language should be simple and provide solutions that are consistent and effective. For more helpful tips on tree trimming and maintenance, contact us.

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