A student asks: Cutting down trees part 1

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Can I get in trouble for cutting down a neighbor’s tree to improve my view?

You can cut all the trees you like on your own property.

If your neighbor or someone else cuts down, removes, or hurts a tree on your property without your permission, that person is required to compensate you (the tree owner) for your loss. If necessary, you can sue to enforce your rights.

Can a tree owner recover for actual losses caused by tree damage?

Yes. If someone damages or destroys your tree, you can recover for the amount of your actual loss due to the injury or destruction of the tree. This recovery is available even if the damage was caused by an honest mistake. A final dollar figure for actual loss might include:

  • The cost of replacing the tree. This would also include the cost of removing debris and cleanup.
  • Diminished property value. If replacing the tree is impossible, then you can recover for the decrease in your property value due to the lost tree.
  • Out-of-pocket expenses. In most states, you can recover money reasonably spent trying to save an injured tree, or to remove a dead one. Such expenses might include appraisal costs, cleaning up debris, repairing the yard, or missed work time to deal with the tree damage.
  • Aesthetic loss and mental anguish. A few courts have awarded damages to tree owners for aesthetic loss and mental anguish in tree damage cases.

Can a tree owner recover for more than just actual damages if a neighbor intentionally damages or destroys a tree?

Some states have specific statutes that provide for additional damages if someone intentionally damages your tree. For example, in Mississippi, if someone deliberately injures your tree, you can sue the violator for an additional amount that is double the amount of your actual damages.

Other states don't have a specific damages statute for intentional harm to trees. However, tree owners in these states might be able to sue for punitive damages (an extra amount over and above actual damages) if the conduct of the person who damaged the tree was especially outrageous or malicious.

Alaska Statutes can cost Treble Damages

AS 09.45.730. Trespass By Cutting or Injuring Trees or Shrubs.

A person who without lawful authority cuts down, girdles, or otherwise injures or removes a tree, timber, or a shrub on (1) the land of another person or on the street or highway in front of a person's house, or (2) a village or municipal lot, or cultivated grounds, or the commons or public land of a village or municipality, or (3) the street or highway in front of land described in (2) of this section, is liable to the owner of that land, or to the village or municipality for treble the amount of damages that may be assessed in a civil action.

However, if the trespass was unintentional or involuntary, or the defendant had probable cause to believe that the land on which the trespass was committed was the defendant's own or that of the person in whose service or by whose direction the act was done, or where the timber was taken from unenclosed woodland for the purpose of repairing a public highway or bridge on or adjoining the land, only actual damages may be recovered.

Hop[e this helps,

Jerry Royse, Manager/Broker

Jerry Royse, at the helm of Royse and Associates, stands out in real estate education with over 35 years of experience teaching across 46 states and 5 countries. A seasoned educator, Jerry has trained thousands in Sales Pre-Licensing and Continuing Education, also applying his expertise as an expert witness in over 30 legal cases and successfully closing over 1100 homes as a Buyer Broker. His extensive knowledge marks him as a preeminent expert in the field.

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