FAQs on Boundary Trees

SIX SIMPLE THINGS you should know about boundary trees (also known as shared trees). The answers are based on the Ontario Forestry Act and the Ontario Superior Court 2013 Ruling (upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal 2015).
Photos of boundary trees are available here and can also help you discern whether or not your tree might be a boundary tree. Please feel free to send questions and I will respond if I can. (Please note that I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal advice.)

QUESTION 1: My neighbour claims that s/he can automatically cut down a tree growing across the property line without my consent. Is this true?
Image fillAnswer: NO (Ontario).
A tree with its trunk growing across a property line is considered shared-property and in normal circumstances should not be injured or destroyed without the neighbor’s consent. The trunk is a key factor in such a case. It can be a serious offence to injure or cut down a tree whose trunk grows across a property line. In Ontario, consequences include a fine of up to $20,000 and 3-months jail time or BOTH.

QUESTION 2: What if the majority of the trunk grows on one neighbor’s property? Doesn’t this automatically mean that it is his or her tree?
Image fillAnswer: NO (Ontario).
Even if the majority of the tree’s trunk grows on one side, it is still a shared tree and therefore common property. In other words, it is not a percentage game. Even if the tree’s trunk grows only a few cm or inches on one side, it is still a shared tree.

QUESTION 3: What is the trunk of a tree?
Image fillAnswer:
The trunk of a tree includes everything from where the base of the tree meets the roots (the root collar) to where the tree sends out its first branches (leaders). So the trunk includes everything from the base/root collar (sometimes this is located below the ground) up to where the tree begins to branch. If any portion of this trunk crosses the property boundary, the tree is common property.

QUESTION 4: My neighbor claims that the base of the tree at ground level is completely on his/her side and that therefore the tree belongs to him/her. Is this true?
Image fillAnswer:  NO (Ontario).
Using the definition above, the Ontario Superior Court ruled that if any portion of the trunk crosses the boundary line, it is a co-owned tree. The trunks of trees are irregular, so sometimes a trunk will not cross a property line at ground level, but may nevertheless cross the property line below ground (at the root collar) or further up. If the trunk of the tree crosses the property line at ANY point between the root collar and where it first branches, it is common property, and therefore protected by the Ontario Forestry Act. The ruling established that there is no ONE arbitrary point on the trunk of a tree where it must cross a property line—anywhere along the trunk is sufficient.

QUESTION 5: My neighbor claims that if the City of Toronto gives a homeowner a permit to remove or injure a tree, this means the permit-holder can automatically cut it down—even in the case of boundary trees. Is this true?
Image fillAnswer:   NO (Ontario).
Usually the fine print on a MUNICIPAL permit to remove a tree states that the permit-applicant is responsible for all “CIVIL and COMMON LAW” issues. Boundary trees are regulated under civil and common law. This means that the permit-holder is responsible for consulting with co-owners (even if they have a  municipal permit). Many permit holders interpret their municipal tree-removal permit to mean that the City is giving them permission to go ahead and cut down a boundary tree, but this is incorrect. After the 2013 Ruling, the City of Toronto changed its procedures for boundary trees and now notifies (in writing) all co-owners of the application for a tree-removal permit.

QUESTION 6: Why doesn’t the City of Toronto require co-consent between neighbors of boundary trees BEFORE issuing a permit to destroy or injure a boundary tree?
Image fillAnswer:
This would certainly help to make things less confusing, but unfortunately prior co-consent for boundary trees is not the case in Toronto—at least, not at present. In 1997, the City of Toronto required the PRIOR co-consent of homeowners before issuing a tree removal permit in cases involving boundary trees. In 1998, however, developers lobbied City Council to have this removed from Toronto’s Tree Protection By-laws claiming that it impeded development. They were successful, and the prior consent clause was removed.
The Hartley vs Cunningham/Scharper Ruling, however, did result in some positive changes to both Toronto’s Private Tree By-Laws as well as Urban Forestry procedures for issuing permits. See here.

Please feel free to send questions and I will respond if I can. Please note that I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal advice.







74 Comments on “FAQs on Boundary Trees”

  1. Thank you for your blog. Very informative we have an infill application in Guelph Ontario on Mont Street that would involve the cutting of boundary trees. |I have informed the neighbours of the Ontario Superior court ruling hopefully they will be able to save these trees. Thank you laura

  2. Question: I have a boundary tree. The trunk lies 90% on my property. I understand the law states that I am not allowed to cut down or injure the tree without the consent of my neighbour. However, am I allowed to prune the tree branches on my side or screw a bracket into the trunk for a fence support. Is this considered injuring it?
    Thank you

  3. It is my understanding that in the case of a boundary tree, you can prune tree branches that extend across your property line, as long as the pruning does not injure the tree. (Always a good idea to coordinate pruning with the co-owners if possible.) Screwing in a bracket for fence support can seriously injure a tree. My suggestion would be to consult with a certified arborist and discuss this with the co-owners.
    Thanks for your interest in this site!

  4. A developer is going to the Committee of Adjustment May 4, 2017 to ask to take down 18 Ravine protected trees and saplings and injure 9 other Ravine protected trees and take out most of the 107 cedar fence. He is trying to build 2 houses in the backyard of corner lot. Toronto City Planning has no objection! Urban forestry has objected. The cedar fence is mutual and his development will also impact my Ravine protected old oak trees. Help!

  5. We have a neighbour that owns a private road where we have a legal deeded access then we have a tree line for privacy which has
    Been there for almost 40 years .Can that neighbour cut away at the trees ? some are on our property line and some are on the right way., Help!

  6. It sounds like you will need to have clarity on which tree trunks cross your property line. In Ontario, if the trunks of the trees cross the property line, then they are boundary trees and are protected as co-owned property through the Ontario Forestry Act. If any of the trees in your case crosses the property line, then they are shared/boundary trees and you are a co-owner. As a result, your neighbour needs your permission/consent to injury or cut down any co-owned trees. (You would have to ask a lawyer about the right-of-way property–that’s a very interesting situation! Depending on where you live, there may also be by-laws protecting private trees from being felled. Your neighbour would have to follow these rules if s/he wishes to cut down trees on his/her private property.)

    You may wish communicate info on the boundary trees to your neighbour and indicate that you consider yourself a co-owner. It might also help to point your neighbour to the info on this website. It is best if this is done in writing and sent requesting a signature. Doing some of these things proactively will help you establish your co-ownership rights at the outset. You can also call or send a letter (cc:ing neighbour) to your local police indicating that you have some boundary trees and are concerned about your property rights being respected and protected.
    In the meantime, you can also have a line-survey done confirming exactly which tree trunks cross the property line (if haven’t already done so). You can also have your boundary trees “valued” by an arborist so that you can indicate damages if they are injured or harmed by our neighbour.

    Hope this helps!

  7. Thank you! My neighbour has done a survey on the property line it shows that some of the trees are clearly on our property which our neighbour has not only trimmed across our property line but tried to destroy the trees. Other trees show inches of the trunk are on the property line some are well over the property line. Along this property line we have legal deeded access on the private road . Can you tell us if the neighbour can still trim or remove any of these trees. Also what is the difference between boundary trees and border trees?

  8. I am happy to answer your questions and share my opinion–but please note that I am not a lawyer.
    If a proper survey shows that any portion of the trunk of a tree crosses a property line, then the tree is considered a “shared tree” or a “boundary tree.” Note that this applies to the trunks of trees (not canopies or roots)–so it is important to understand that it is the legal trunk of a tree that must cross the property line. Boundary trees in Ontario are governed by the Ontario Forestry Act. This Act stipulates that they are co-owned trees (co-owned between property owners) and provides that their destruction or injury requires the co-consent of both owners.
    You indicate above that you are one of the property owners (i.e., an owner of one of the properties where the trunks actually cross the property line), so that would make you a co-owner of those specific trees. According to the Act, therefore, your neighbour is required to seek your consent to destroy those trees. (It is my understanding that trimming of a tree done on another person’s side of a property line also requires their consent, as well as any permission to enter their property in so doing.)

    There have been an increasing number of cases in Ontario involving boundary trees, and it’s probably best to consult with a lawyer about the specifics of your situation (including the issue of deeded access), and perhaps send notification to your neighbour of your co-ownership in the trees. This might help prevent any further destruction of—or injury to—the trees.

    “Boundary trees” are trees that fit the legal definition above…”border trees” are trees that grow along the border or near the edge of a property line. Border trees may or may not have trunks that cross over into an adjacent property—so they may or may not be “boundary trees.” Anyone who wants to cut down a tree near the edge of their property, however, needs to be very careful that they are not removing a boundary tree—i.e., co-owned property.

    Hope this helps!

  9. Thank you for your reply. The question regarding the canopy of a boundary tree that is co- owned , is there anylaw on how high one can trim or cut branches of a boundary tree. Your help is very much appreciated on this matter.

  10. We have a boundary tree that has toppled over and damaged the fence (due to the uprooting) and the neighbours car. I would like to know what is the liability -is the damage shared or can one argue that the damage from the neighbours branch on the neighbours property is borne by the neighbour? The law is confusing as it only talks about pruning or removal of trees, not damages.

  11. To my knowledge, there are no such laws/restrictions regarding this, but it would be a good question to raise with urban forestry… it is my understanding, however, that property rights extend into airspace, so that the pruning of any branches involving a human presence on your side of the property requires your consent. So in other words, an arborist who wants to trim the tree’s branches accessing your side of the property line (including both your ground and airspace) requires your consent to do so.

  12. Our new neighbour has just trimmed two about 15-year-old apple trees that grow on our side (trunks growing almost 1 m and 1/2 m, from the property line, on our lawn so not really a boundary tree). While I understand trimming small branches extending to his side, he had trespassed to our side and trimmed all around the trees stating that it was just “an act of good neighbour” to give it “nice shape”.

    Now the trees have no flowers, thus no apples on the lower branches and I could not reach the top of the tree for apples anyway. I expressed my unhappiness on him trespassing and altering the trees on our side. I will not have chance to make apple juice this year at least. For sure he is not an arborist, so I wonder if the pruning was even done in a safe way. He said that he will in fact next cut off all the thick limbs and all canopy that extend at all cross the property line – stating that he KNOWS IT WILL HARM OR KILL THE TREES. He prefers the trees to be gone. That would be about 1/3 of the canopy and make the trees totally lopsided. Adding the trimming that he did already, that would be removing more than 1/3 of the total canopy.

    He says it is a safety risk to have fruit trees because they attract wasps, fallen apples destroy his lawn, and branches might have hit his daughter’s face when he lifted her up when walking on his driveway. He says we have to stop apples falling on his property altogether or clear them up for him. To me fallen apples, just like fallen leaves, are just like part of nature. I could not possibly stop apples falling on his side, and should not be expected to rake his lawn either. He thinks he cannot be expected to rake apples on his side because the tree is not his.

    He purchased the house knowing these trees had been there for long with the agreement of us and the previous owner (planted on our side by the previous owner actually, so not really our choice, but we were happy). Last summer we had a look at the property lines together with the new neighbours, so they certainly were aware that the trees are on our side.

    I understand trimming branches that would extend to his driveway, and trimming of some small branches that extend to cover his lawn area, but find that cutting off limbs of the tree would risk serious damage to the tree. The trees might become unstable and become an actual safety hazard. The trees have been healthy, with no limbs that would look like posing any risk of falling.

    We are in Oakville, but this appears to be mostly a civil matter. One tree is 16 cm diameter but branches off below 137 cm, other is just 12 cm diameter. Our neighbour thinks that he could in fact just cut down the trees and replace with other types of trees and no-one would care, because bylaws don’t apply to smaller trees like these. Hard to understand that a neighbour would be this unreasonable simply because he dislikes fruit trees. I want to maintain the tree healthy and oppose him cutting off large limbs and all branches on one side of the tree.

  13. Dear Lin,

    I am so sorry to hear about this situation! I always let people know that I am not a lawyer, but I am happy to share some thoughts.

    It sounds like these are NOT boundary trees, but trees growing entirely on your side of the property line. It’s important, however, to establish that the trunks are wholly on your side, following the definition of a tree’s trunk on this website.

    Based on what you indicate above, it seems that your neighbour has trespassed onto your private property to trim the trees. This is a legal issue in addition to the issue of trimming your trees. Trespass is serious and it is something that you might alert the police to—even if only to file a complaint and consult with them about how to prevent it from happening again.

    Your neighbour sounds like he is acting out of frustration—we all do this sometimes!—but we all still need to obey the law. You can ask the police to speak with your neighbour. You may wish to file trespass charges, but having the police talk to your neighbour may at least prevent a recurrence. In addition, you can share with the police some of the past history and your concerns that your neighbour will trim the trees in such a way as to make them hazardous.

    To my knowledge, your neighbour can trim the branches that extend across into his yard, but he cannot do this in such a way as to injure or kill your trees. If he does so, and your trees die, then he is liable for property damage. (If your neighbour is not an arborist and cuts off large boughs, then he is quite likely to injure the trees.) If he “trims” with the intention of killing the trees—you say he has threatened to do this—then this seems to me much more serious. It would be good to let the police know that he has explicitly indicated he wants to kill the trees, and also get witnesses to any future statements of this kind. I suggest that you take photos of the trees before any more damage is done.

    Oakville does have tree protection by-laws, but permits to cut down trees would be issued to the owners of the trees—not to a neighbour who doesn’t like someone else’s trees.

    One last thought—it sounds like your neighbour is very unhappy about the fallen apples and has different lawn aesthetics. Some people have successfully used nets/tarps to collect falling fruit. These are inexpensive and relatively easy to install and also prevent insect infestations (i.e., wasps).

    Hope this helps! Best, Hilary

  14. Hi There, thank you for your answers and it has help me a great deal. We did hire an arborist to confirm boundary trees and our own trees. All have been trimmed away and roots hack at its very the clear the intent to injure the trees! How can we stop this person from doing anymore harm? Thank you

  15. Hi Mike,

    One thing you can do is: “officially” inform your neighbour of your co-ownership in the trees–if you haven’t already done so. This can be done in the form sending of a letter requiring a signature. In some cases, co-owners have had a lawyer write and send the letter. You could also include information about the Ontario Forestry Act as well as the address of this website—both outline the potential consequences if the co-owned trees are injured or destroyed.

    A second suggestion is that you also send/cc: the letter to your local police as well as to your City Councillor.

    This lets your neighbour know that 1) there are legal parameters involved regarding what they can and cannot do to the shared trees; and 2) you are aware AND being vigilant of your co-ownership (i.e., property rights) in the boundary trees.

    Good luck!


  16. Hi Hilary,
    We have a boundary-shared tree in our back yard which is 3 feet diameter and is tilted to our neighbors’ side. In case this tree happened to fall, although it doesn’t seem likely since it seems to have grown that way, who is liable for damages that may occur?
    Ps. We live in Mississauga.
    Thank you.

  17. In most cases tree damage falls under your home insurance policy. So best to check with your insurance company to see what your coverage is. There have been cases of co-owners threatening to hold their neighbors repsonsible for damages if a boundary tree falls down…but (as in our case), there has to be sufficient cause to remove a tree. If a tree is healthy and viable, it shouldn’t be removed. If you or your neighbor are concerned about safety and property damage, then I suggest having an arborist come and evaluate the tree.
    There’s an interesting/helpful article on this issue here: https://www.thestar.com/business/personal_finance/2014/01/31/if_your_neighbours_tree_falls_in_your_yard_who_pays.html

  18. I have an ash tree on property line that is diseased and slowly dying. This neighbour now says it’s my tree and does not want to help pay to remove it. Tree is clearly on property line , fence stops and starts on each side of tree. I gave them estimate on a removal 3 months ago and they have not replied or returned any phone calls. What should I do ?

  19. Hi Hilary,

    Thank you very much for maintaining this website. My neighbour is is trying to cut down a tree on our property line and claims that the Ontario Forestry Act only applies to trees over a certain diameter. The trunk of the tree is likely only ~10cm in diameter. I have not seen that requirement referenced anywhere in the Act or anywhere online. Do you know whether his claim has merit?

  20. Hi Jonathan,

    You are correct…the Ontario Forestry Act makes no mention of any diameter. Its wording refers to “trees” and “trunks.”

    Your neighbor may be confusing municipal by-laws which require a permit to remove trees with certain diameters. (In Toronto it is 30 cm or more.) In Toronto, a tree with a diameter of 10 cm would not require a municipal permit to have it removed. However, the municipal permit is separate from the issue of ownership. If the tree is a boundary tree, then it is co-owned property. Your neighbor requires your permission to remove it. A consult with your family lawyer might be helpful here if you feel that your co-property rights in the tree are not being respected.

  21. Hi
    We have a boundary tree issue.It is a very large tree and affects our and three other properties. To verify that it is a boundary tree who do we contact. Is it an arborist or does it require a property line survey? or both? Thanks

  22. I have a question about trees being planted. My neighbour, who moved in maybe 5 yrs ago or so, has suddenly decided he wants maple trees. The trees he is planting are all on the property line. Two of these trees are inches away from my fence. My fence is about 4 inches inside my property. The other day he tore out a row of lilacs growing on the boundary and planted a maple tree. Those lilacs belonged to my previous owner but they were started already when we built our house 30 yrs ago. He already has a gigantic birch tree about 10 feet on his property who’s branches overhang my property and makes a mess of leaves seeds and branches in our yard and worse in the pool. The birch already shades my pool from about 2 pm onward which makes warming the pool with the sun difficult. Is there a law on how close he can plant these trees?

  23. I’ m sorry that I don’t have an answer to your question, Lynne. You would have to consult a lawyer about any existing laws. Because your fence is inside the property line, it makes an official survey of the property line important. It would appear that planting a tree across a property line would involve entering your property space and that issue of trespass might therefore be relevant.

  24. Hello lynne.The first thing i would do is contact your municipality and make sure that your neighbour is following any by-laws there may be concerning the planting of trees. good-luck.

  25. Is there a legal “boundary tree” distinction between a tree and bush? I have planted bushes that are not boundary because the trunk definition is entirely inside my property by 2 inches but since it is a “bushy” tree (a yew) some of upper VERTICAL GROWING branches do eventually cross onto the neighbours property. The neighbour wants the “trees” removed. Can he trim his side without asking me? Thank you.

  26. My neighbor legally removed a boundary tree earlier this year and did all the proper permitting etc but left the base of the trunk as well as the roots in place. The roots of said tree created a bulging hump in my paver stone walkway which was a condition that existing at the time I purchased the house about 7 years ago. The boundary tree had gown around a 3 inch metal fencing post as well as mesh fencing. In other words the post and the mesh were deeply embedded into the remaining trunk and roots. I was considering taking a stump grinder to it but was concerned about the potential damage to the grinder (which would be a rental) so I decided to leave as-is and live with the root hump. My neighbor approached me in the summer to let me know they will be doing a massive reno of their kitchen extension adjacent to said trunk. The reno required them to rebuild the extension including basement foundations and everything above. They told me they will remove the fence and tree stump and build a new fence as part of the reno. No discussions of sharing of costs were had at the time so I had assumed they were taking care of it themselves as good neighbors do when they subject their neighbors to months of construction chaos. However, today they sent me an email stating that they could not grind out the stump for the same reasons I mentioned above. Instead they need to have their contractor excavate the stump as well as 4 others that are near the boundary line (none of which cause me any issues) in order to safely remove the stumps and remaining fence. They told me what the additional costs would be and suggested we “split” the costs. Should I be responsible for sharing the costs of this stump excavation? Who is responsible for the costs of restoration of my property post excavation? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  27. If I understand you correctly, it sounds like the boundary trees were removed by mutual consent with your neighbour, and that only the stumps remain. I know of only one recent legal case (based on the ruling mentioned on this website) where neighbours had to financially share a maintenance issue regarding a boundary tree: the tree was still standing and it had become an imminent hazard, and thus had to be removed. This does not seem to apply here.
    I’m afraid I can’t offer much comment on this situation except to say that it seems like something that is between you and your neighbour. It appears that you have given permission to have the stumps removed in light of your neighbour’s wish to renovate—but not owing to reasons affecting your property. Lastly, as far as I know, someone cannot cause damage to a neighbour’s property, including when renovations are being done, and must reasonably avoid doing so. The presence of any contractors or other workers on your property will require your permission (to avoid trespass).

  28. We have a tree that pretty much is situated between our fence and a schools chain linked fence. This is a perfectly healthy tree but in late December it uprooted and toppled over towards the school’s side. They cleaned it up and now asking for damages to repair the fence and saying I’m 100% liable. Shouldn’t this be shared cost?

  29. What happens in the case where the neighbour has already gone ahead and chopped down 15 cedars that formed a privacy wall between the two homes (20-25 years old), without consent? We’ve hired a surveyor who will be out in a few days, and already filed a police report. But how can the trees be properly assessed as border or shared when the trees have already been erected and only stumps remain?

  30. I am so sorry to hear that this happened! You must be in quite a state of shock!

    If the trees are boundary trees, then hopefully your surveyor should be able to determine this from the stumps alone. If they are, then your neighbour can be charged under the Ontario Forestry Act Section 10. (This is the case even if s/he had a municipal permit to cut the trees down.)

    To assess the value of the trees, there are 2 options that might be relevant.

    The first is to contact an arborist who can give you an estimate based on the stumps. This is a formula that is used by arborists based on the species, height and age of the trees. If you have any recent photos of the trees, this might be helpful. Because there are 15 trees involved, the sum of their worth may be quite significant.

    A second option is to have a qualified landscaper come and give you an estimate of how much it would cost to replace the trees, including labour and all the costs. This is something (or a portion thereof) that you might be able to request in damages.

    Additionally, a lawyer might be able to a give you information on the loss of privacy, value of your property, etc. If the contractor/tree-cutter crossed your property line to cut the trees down, then trespass charges may also be relevant.

    The second court case (2017) posted on this website (Scheuermann) vs Gros) was situation where a neighbour went ahead and cut down boundary trees without permission (in Ontario). Scheuermann charged his neighbour under the Ontario Forestry Act and the neighbour was convicted and fined. This conviction helped Scheuermann in legal proceedings against his neighbour seeking damages. I believe he also took the contractor to court as well, since they are liable regarding knowing and following tree law.

    Click to access gross-vs-scheuermann-2017.pdf

    Please feel free to be in touch!

  31. Is there any kind of bylaw in Oakville that states a newly planted tree should be a certain distance away from the property lines?

  32. Hi there, so we live in Bracebridge, we just purchased an ideal lot lined with trees and along the back of our property we have cedar hedge that is on our Nieghbor’s property at the base and is straddling the property line at some points some of the trunks are growing from our side. that is approximately 30 feet tall, healthy and lush, above 6 feet, and then the foliage juts out well over 8 feet onto our property, unfortunately dear have attacked the lower portion, I have cleaned up up the lower portion of the dead branches. and I was planning to put a fence on my property a few feet in for privacy. But now the home behind us has a new owner, I just met him and he plans on completely removing the entire hedge from his entire property (500feet) which is on the line and abuts 6 other properties. He complains that the hedge looks awful on his side but it looks great on ours above 6 feet and also looks great from either of my neighbors yards on my left and right side. What can I do?

  33. Some suggestions:

    1. Immediately take photographs of the trees/hedge. (I also suggest talking to the other neighbors involved and let them know about the plan to cut down the hedge.)

    2. Act quickly—otherwise your neighbor might just go ahead and have the hedge cut down. Apparently this often happens when someone goes away for a weekend: they return to find the trees gone. If workmen show up and start cutting, you can inform them that they cannot trespass onto your property (including your airspace) and that they do not have your permission to cut down the trees. Then call the police. The police may or may not know about the Ontario Forestry Act (see 4. below) but you can tell them about it. (My understanding is that your neighbor and any contractor/workmen can be held legally liable under the Ontario Forestry Act if they are in violation of it.)

    3. Let your neighbor know that you believe some or all of the trunks of the cedar trees cross the property line. You can politely explain that if this is the case then the trees are:
    a) boundary trees;
    b) protected by Section 10 of the Ontario Forestry Act; and
    c) are co-owned.
    Advise your neighbor that under the Ontario Forestry Act no one co-owner can injure or cut down a boundary tree without a co-owner’s permission. (It sounds like there might be 6 co-owners involved here!) I would also tell the new owner about the information available on this website.
    It is probably best to do the above in the form of a letter with a tracking number or signature required. Hand delivery (bring along a witness) would be good, too.

    4. Get in touch with your municipal councillor and ask for assistance.
    Bracebridge has tree protection by-laws and regulations about cutting down trees. Permits are required to cut down trees. You can find information and a number to call here:

    5. In a situation like this, it’s critical for you to know where the property line is. Do you have survey? Are there survey posts on your property? If not, a next step would be to have a “line reading” by a surveyor (this is much less expensive than an entire survey) and have them insert posts so that you can establish that the trunks cross the property line. (Remember to photograph.)

    Keep in mind that the legal definition of a tree’s trunk is crucial. Even if the entire base of the tree is on one side of the property line, but a portion of the trunk crosses further up—then it is STILL a boundary-tree and co-owned. This is what the 2013 legislation established.

    6. Refer to the cedars as “trees.”
    “Hedges” do not always consist of “trees.” In some cases they consist of “shrubs” which are considered “woody plants” and therefore are not protected by the Ontario Forestry Act. Cedars are often referred as “shrubs,” but to my knowledge they are in fact “trees.” This is a key point in your case—i.e., that you are dealing with trees which make up a hedge (not shrubs).
    Do you know the species of cedars? If not, you can have a specialist come out and identify the cedars as “trees” (and put it in writing for you). A certified arborist is best—but an informed person from a local nursery would be helpful, too.

    7. A hedge is always a complex situation: it’s possible that some of the trees in the hedge may be boundary trees but others not—some trees may fully belong to you, some fully belong to your neighbor, and some are shared. In any case, your neighbor cannot cut down any of your trees or the co-owned trees without your permission.

    8. It might be helpful to include in your letter to your neighbor a reminder that your prior permission is required for any work involving your private property (including into your airspace)—otherwise it is a trespass.

    Good luck!

  34. Hi There! Thanks for all your helpful information! Could you please clarify – what rights do property owners have if a boundary tree is NOT healthy, and considered a liability – but both interested parties do not agree to remove the hazard? Who is responsible for the expense of removing such a tree? Thanks for any help you can offer!

  35. I’m glad you found the website helpful!

    A few thoughts….when a tree becomes unhealthy there are several remedies—not all of them need involve cutting the tree down. If one owner thinks the boundary tree is “terminally-diseased” or an “imminent hazard,” then this should be confirmed by Urban Forestry. I suggest you check out these 2 websites for information on this:



    To my knowledge, if a boundary tree is declared terminally diseased or considered an imminent hazard, the co-owners are equally responsible for the cost of removal—unless they come to some other agreement.

  36. Hello, A tree just fall into our neighbour’s yard. The tree trunk is across the property line so it is a boundary tree, but the neighbours are arguing that when the tree was planted over 50 years ago it was planted in our yard. I was not the owner at the time but does this argument hold any water? Doesn’t it depend where the trunk is now, today? Thank you for all this excellent advice on this website.

  37. Hi Hilary,

    Came across your website via google and after reading the Globe and Mail article about your case several years ago. Just wanted your perspective on our situation: we have a large Manitoba Maple tree on our property but with roots supposedly extending to and supposedly causing damage to our neighbour’s garage. We are fairly new to the house having only moved here two years ago, while our neighbour and our home’s previous owners were both respectively here for 30+ years. Our neighbour is now threatening to sue us to cut down our tree. We love our tree, and have been citing Toronto Urban Forestry by-laws to maintain our tree’s existence. He says Manitoba Maples are considered invasive species and not subject to requiring a permit to cut down. I have already reached out to Urban Forestry to see if this is the case. My perspective is that he is trying to intimidate/bully us and if he truly had legal recourse he would have taken action against the previous owners. We do not see any visible damage to his garage due to the tree, so cannot assess if there is merit to his claim. We would very much like to keep the tree as possible, but of course if he has merit to take legal action against us we want to be prepared. Any insight you can share on our situation would be greatly appreciated. Thank you! Evelyn

  38. Dear Evelyn,

    Apologies for the slow reply…Toronto’s by-laws apply to ALL trees. There is no clause in the City by-laws that exempts certain species. The tree in our case was a Norway Maple, also considered an “invasive species,” but this had no legal relevance to our case. So the statement: “….Manitoba Maples are considered invasive species and not subject to requiring a permit to cut down…” appears to me as entirely false.

    Regarding Urban Forestry—we found that they can be very sluggish with trees that are on their invasive species list. What is interesting about this, however, is that many of these trees may have to be reclassified in conditions of climate change, since some of them are among the most resilient species.

    Regarding root damage—you neighbour would have to prove in court that damage was being caused by your tree. There are a number of things that can be done to remedy this and do not require either injury or destruction of your tree. In such cases, it is best to consult an arborist.

  39. Hello Hilary
    Thank you for all this information. Just one question I don’t see answered. Does the cost of taking down a boundary tree get split between neighbours. This tree started on his property, has now spread to mine, and needs to come down. Its branches knocked my metal pipe chimney down, the trunk is crushing the fence between our properties and a shed roof of mine, and my roof is threatened. I paid to repair the chimney.
    Thank you in advance.

  40. Hello Phil,

    If the tree is a boundary tree and therefore co-owned, both owners must first consent to removing the tree. To injure or remove a boundary tree without the consent of the co-owner(s) contravenes the Ontario Forestry Act Section 10(2). If you haven’t already done so, it sounds like a discussion with your neighbour about problems, as well as possible solutions, is next.

    If co-consent to remove the boundary tree is achieved, then the next step would be to discuss and agree upon (as co-owners) how to share the costs. In my experience, the costs to remove a boundary tree have been divided a number of ways, including (but not exclusively) a 50-50 splitting.

    Best regards, Hilary

  41. Could you please speak to your understanding of the definition of “injuring” a tree as it applies to the 2013 sureme court ruling. Thks. for this site, information isnt always easily found, also seems like a lot of people have these kinds of issues unfortunately.

  42. HI There nice website and very informative and thank you for that. Here is my question.

    We share a number of trees between our property line and a developer who wants to build an 8 storey building beside me. When the time comes to start construction – how does the city deal with taking down trees on a shared property line if i dont want those trees to be take down? How is that typically addressed? Is it addressed like tie backs where the developer has to have an agreement with the house owner and compensation is paid or is the developer just allowed to cut down trees on a property line with no consequences?

    Please share your thoughts! Thanks

  43. The developer will have to apply for a municipal permit to remove the trees. Because the trees are boundary trees, the developer must have your consent to remove them. The City of Toronto now has a new process for addressing boundary trees and can be found here:

    I suggest that you notify (in writing) both the City (Urban Forestry) and the Developer that these are boundary trees (giving your address and photos if possible) and that you do not give your consent to have them removed. The onus is then the developer to contact you about how to proceed.

  44. Hi, we bought a detached home in July 2017. Our home has a full deck at the back and it was fully fenced by cedar hedges 2 storeys tall. It looked really beautiful and provided us a lot of privacy. Recently our neighbor on the other side of the hedges came over and said he wants to cut the hedges down and share a fence. We were in strong disagreement as we didn’t want to cut down trees that took so long to grow and that a fence would not provide the same privacy. Upon insisting he said they were fully on his property and that his father planted them 30 years ago. We said we’d like to get a survey done to confirm this, he agreed he wouldn’t cut them down before letting us know. But yesterday, he cut them down before we realized it, it was a huge shock to us. Now he claims that part of our shed and deck is on his property. We are getting a survey done now. Given that the cedars are cut down, how can we determine whose property the trunk was on. We only see the stumps at this point. We are determined to get tall hedges planted again. It was very uncivil of our neighbour to cut them down without us realizing.

  45. I am so sorry to hear that this happened!
    Yes…getting survey done immediately is a very good idea. If any of the stumps cross the property line, then your neighbour has cut down co-owned trees and can be prosecuted under the boundary tree law. If this is the case, then you can also ask for compensation. Do you have photos of the trees? If you do go to court, then these would be very helpful, particularly as your neighbour has given you an age (of 30 years). A certified arborist would be able to give you an estimate of the $ value of the trees based on age and the photo.

  46. Hi Hilary,
    We lived in our house for over 20 years enjoying very mature landscaping in our rear and front yards. Recently, however, the house next door was demolished and new one is currently being constructed. Since we had concerns that the mature 25′ L x 20′ h x 5′ w cedar hedge trees bordering the back yards would be removed we asked the city to have them preserved during the construction process, which they thankfully did. However, now that the house is near completion we are concerned the new owner may contest that the trees belong to them and apply for their removal in the future. In my opinion the hedges are co-owned because at least 40% of the tree branches are on my side of the property but on their survey from 3 years ago it appears the trees on their side of the lot line. Unfortunately, our survey is from 30 years and doesn’t show any trees. Should we obtain a new survey just to sure? Also, how do we determine whether the cedar tree trunks crosses the property line making them boundary trees? These trees have many lower branches that have broken off from years of being squeezed between two chain linked fences on either side. Would you have any photos of cedar hedges as boundary trees which you can share? Thank you.

  47. Hello,

    In light of your concerns, I would suggest 2 things:

    First, is to have a certified arborist confirm that your hedgerow is made up of cedar “trees.” The boundary tree law applies to trees only (not shrubs). Hedges are often made up of both, so it’s important for you to establish that your hedge consists of trees.

    The second issue concerns the trunks of your cedar trees. (I am afraid that I do have any photos of hedges, but the points made in the photos on the website would apply to any of your trees.) In order to qualify for the protections under the boundary tree law, the tree trunks must cross the property line. The trunk of a tree includes everything from the root collar up to the first branch. If the trunk crosses at ANY of these points, it is a boundary tree and co-owned. So you would need a certified surveyor to establish this fact. I would definitely urge an updated survey—the one from 3 years ago may not use an updated definition of a tree’s trunk. (For example, the survey may only reflect a ground level reading of the trunks—whereas, other parts of the trunk higher up may cross the boundary line. Again, if the tree’s trunk crosses the boundary line at ANY point between the root collar and the first branch, then it is a boundary tree. Even if the trunks do not cross at ground level but cross at another point along the trunk, they are still boundary trees.) I do encourage that you have a certified surveyor do at least a “line read” of the boundary (this is not quite as expensive as a full survey). You should also make sure that they are aware of the boundary tree law and can do a proper plotting of the trees on the survey.

    I hope this helps and good luck!

  48. Thank you very much for the advice and helpful information – much appreciated! We will definitely seek the help of a certified arborist and surveyor.

  49. Hi There
    Ok heres a big question – a developer has a 8 storey application in right beside me. We share 5 trees on the boundary line. He has asked the city to demolish the trees. How does the city deal with this? Can i oppose this and is there legislation that will allow the developer to proceed at some point? Does the developer pay the home owner compensation for the loss of the trees when the city agrees to the cutting down of the trees?
    PLease help

  50. Based on what you share above….if the trees are boundary trees then you are the co-owner and must consent to have them removed. If you do agree, then yes, there is usually compensation—the amount would be negotiated. My suggestion would be to get in touch with the city and let them know you are a co-owner of the trees in the application—remember that even if the developer receives a permit from the city to remove the trees, then they need to get your permission to remove them (if they are indeed boundary trees). I also suggest that you write the developer indicating that you are a co-owner of the 5 trees.

  51. Thank you for this resource it’s been extremely helpful but sad to know that we are not alone. Can you outline the process for having the owner and violator of the Forestry Act charged with the offence. Does this require a lawyer, Is it a township Bylaw responsibility, or is it the Ministry of Natural Resources. We are in rural Ontario between Ottawa and Bancroft.

  52. Hi Laurie,
    The Forestry Act is a provincial. In the cases (that I know of) where someone was prosecuted for violating the Forestry Act’s rules for boundary trees, a lawyer was retained. The MNR and the OPP have both been extremely reluctant to assume responsibility for prosecuting offenders—but you can always try to contact them. It doesn’t hurt to register your case with them, even if they do not act on it. If you do end up hiring a lawyer, make sure that they are familiar with the boundary tree law!

  53. So earlier this year I met a guy who left a letter in my mail box (no lives at this property) who says he wishes to discuss cutting down some trees in the back yard. I provided my email address and contact number. These trees are boundary trees. The branches hang over both sides of the property. Months go by and no contact. The other day I go to inspect the property and ALL the trees have been removed!! I immediately texted this contact person and says the developer left a letter in the mail box indicating which trees would be cut down. I never received any such letter. Now I am very upset but at this point there is no evidence of the trees were even there as all the trucks and roots have been removed (it now looks like a farmer’s field) and only the soil remains. No consent was given. What options do I now have?

    This is in the city of Guelph and some of the trees in question were Manitoba Maples and the others I’m not sure of. Most were on the property line and only a few may not have been. Any direction, thoughts or comments on the matter would be greatly appreciated. If you require additional information please don’t hesitate to ask. Thank you in advance.


  54. Hi Hilary,
    I am wondering what the laws are for a boundary tree that is mostly on my side and partly on the City of Toronto property line. We called about having the tree trimmed and the city came by and wants to cut down the tree. It is a Norway Maple and they say the tree is not safe. I am very upset about this. It is a beautiful tree and was in full bloom this year. The branches are quite long and a good pruning is required. I contacted 3 different arborists and they all have confirmed the tree is fine and we’re very surprised the city wants to cut it down. I was even told that if the tree was solely on my property I would not get a permit to remove it according to the Forestry by laws as the tree is healthy.
    What are my rights as it is a boundary tree? I have contacted my City Councillor as well. I am worried the city may show up and take it down without my consent.
    Any advice is greatly appreciated.

  55. Hi David…as far as I know, you are a co-owner of the tree and the City cannot cut the tree down without your permission. The only exception would be if the tree is an “imminent hazard” and it appears that you have done your due diligence with arborist reports to show that it is healthy.
    Here is what I would do:
    1. Put a sign on your tree indicating that it is a boundary tree and s shared property and thus falls under the Provisions of the Ontario Forestry Act. Anyone seeking to remove the tree needs your permission as a co-owner. You might also tack up a “no trespassing sign” on your side. Take a photo.
    That way if the City sends someone out, you have made them aware of your property rights.
    2. Immediately contact Urban Forestry via email and let them know that this is a boundary tree and falls under the Ontario Forestry Act. Share that you have arborist report showing that the tree is healthy. You do not give your permission for the City to remove it and are seeking further discussion about its care. Send a digital copy of the report and your photo of the tree. Request a response from the City. Then mail a hard copy of your email and report—signature required. You can find a directory of staff here:

    Click to access 94f3-parks_forestry_recreation.pdf

    Also mail a copy to your Councillor.
    This should set you up to have a dialogue with the City about your shared tree and the care it requires.
    3. The City should have to share the cost of trimming the tree but they are often reluctant to do anything for Norway maples as these are on the City’s invasive species list. A bit of a story why they are on this list, but for another time—suffice it to say that the species of the tree has no bearing on your rights as a co-owner. (The tree in my case was also a Norway maple.)

    Hope this helps!

  56. Hi Hilary,
    Thank you for your response in regards to our Norway Maple. We implemented your suggestions and the City of Toronto decided to do a survey and informed us that the tree is 59% on city property and 41% on our private property. It is a boundary tree and they have stated that since more than 50% is on city property they can decide what to do. They are planning to cut it down. Is this in fact the forestry bylaw? From what I have researched a boundary tree is such no matter how much is on either side. Are there different bylaws for the city? Do I have any recourse? I am very upset over this and need some advice ASAP on how to save my tree.
    Thank you ,

  57. Hi David,
    It is also my understanding that the percentage is irrelevant. If any portion of the trunk (as defined by law) it is a boundary tree and co-owned.
    I would download a copy of the 2013 Ruling from the website and send it to the City of Toronto, sending it to whoever wrote the letter, the head of urban forestry and the legal department—highlighting that the court ruled that the tree involved was co-owned on the basis of the tree’s trunk—there was no inclusion of percentage. (Interestingly as 99% of the tree grew on our neighbour’s property.)

    Beyond that, I would suggest consulting with a lawyer. Our lawyers—Clayton Ruby and Nadar Nassan would be helpful on this point. You might also get in touch with Diane Saxe.

    Best regards, Hilary

  58. Hi Hilary,
    We have a boundary tree that we have a dangerous private tree order to comply because the tree is dead and is dangerous. Do we still need consent from the neighbor to remove this tree?

  59. The rule of thumb with a boundary tree is to inform all co-owners of any actions to be taken regarding the shared tree. If the order to remove is from the City because the tree is an “imminent hazard,” then I suggest consulting with them about permissions—making sure to get everything in writing.

  60. Hi Hilary,

    I am thankful for your website. I am familiar with your case from past research, but I was pleasantly surprised to find your website. It is very informative. I have two opposing reputable legal opinions regarding my right to prune branches extending across my property from a tree which recently grew into a boundary tree. I have asked one of them for clarification and am awaiting a response. One lawyer says that joint consent of the co-owners is required for any actions on the boundary tree. The other lawyer says that joint consent is not required for pruning, but it is required to “injure or destroy” a boundary tree as per 10.3 of the Forestry Act. However, the Forestry Act does not define “injure”. I live in Aurora which has a private tree protection bylaw. It defines “pruning” and “injury” in separate clauses. Both definitions are very specific. This says to me that Aurora does not consider pruning as being injurious to a tree. It thus appears to me that pruning is not regulated by the Forestry Act and hence joint consent is not legally required. A reputable certified arborist can prune in accordance with the bylaw without injuring the boundary tree. Notwithstanding the conflicting advice from counsels, my conclusion is that I don’t need the other (recalcitrant) owner’s consent to prune the boundary tree’s branches extending across my property.

    You said in a post on September 26, 2016, 8:08 pm

    It is my understanding that in the case of a boundary tree, you can prune tree branches that extend across your property line, as long as the pruning does not injure the tree. (Always a good idea to coordinate pruning with the co-owners if possible.)

    Question: Did you get the above understanding from a lawyer or expert? And if yes, can you please elaborate how this was explained to you?

    Thank you,


  61. I am very glad to hear that the website is useful!
    Given that injury can (and frequently does) occur with pruning, it is highly advisable to consult—when possible—with the co-owner(s). This information is based on discussions with experienced, certified arborists, as well as with staff at Toronto’s Urban Forestry.

  62. I have several very tall trees that appear to be borderline trees. Part of the property fence has either grown into the trees or is being pushed out overhanging the neighbour’s property. Large roots are visibly growing under both of our lots. 90% of the trunk is on my side. I understand these conditions make them shared ownership trees. There are several broken limbs suspended high up in the trees some on my side and some on theirs. If those limbs fall who is responsible for damage or injury. Also who pays for safe removal? Thanks in advance.

  63. It appears that these trees are indeed boundary trees…if this is the case, then you and the co-owner are responsible for the trees, including costs for maintenance.

  64. Hi Hilary, thanks for your website!
    We have a tree on the property that appears to be split between 3 properties (I can provide a reference pic). The roots planted in one our side and a back neighbor, with the trunk coming up and tilting over our next door neighbor. The majority of the tree dangles over the next door neighbor and if it falls, significant damage would occur. There is noticeable damage to the trunk on our side, which holds up the the rest of the tree that hovers over the neighbor.
    Since we are likely all co-owners of this tree, if it were to fall on the next door neighbor’s house, are we solely liable? Or all 3? Or their insurance would be involved, not ours.

  65. If the tree’s trunk crosses all three property lines, then all three “households” are co-owners and are involved in the maintenance and care of the tree. If the tree is structurally compromised, it’s best to have a certified arborist evaluate it (perhaps sharing the cost of report among the 3 of you?) and then discuss options with your co-owners.
    As far as insurance goes—the best option is to check in with your insurance company and ask them.

  66. If a trunk bifurcates, does the trunk, for the purposes of determining a boundary tree, end at the point of bifurcation, or above, where branches come off each ‘sub-trunk’? (It is a very large tree. The main trunk divides into two large ‘sub-trunks’ ~ 5 1/2 ft. from the ground. Branches then start on each part of the fork about 10 ft. above that, forming a large canopy. The lower single trunk is on one side of a fence; one of the bifurcations twists over onto the other side of the fence. It’s not clear where the root collar is or even where the property line is, as the fence was put up after the tree was quite large.) Or are the two ‘sub-trunks’ considered the first branches?

  67. It would seem to me that if a tree’s “trunk” bifurcates, it is still a “trunk.” (In our legal case, our tree had three stem-trunks—this is the terminology of the arborist.) At stake in what you describe are two things:
    1) whether or not the bifurcations are considered trunks or branches. Consulting with a certified arborist would be advisable.
    2) if any or all the bifurcations are trunks and cross the property line, then it would appear that the tree is a boundary tree (following the court ruling and its definition). To determine this you would need to know where the property line is and this involves hiring a certified surveyor to do a “line” reading (which is less expensive than a full property survey).
    In either case, it would seem that there is ambiguity about the tree’s trunk(s) in relation to the property line, so before doing anything to the tree, all the property owners involved should correctly determine the tree’s status.

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