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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

41 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!

    Hilary

  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.
    https://boundarytrees.files.wordpress.com/2018/02/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:
    https://www.bracebridge.ca/en/live-here/Environment-Trees-and-Yards.aspx

    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:

    https://www.toronto.ca/311/knowledgebase/kb/docs/articles/parks,-forestry-and-recreation/urban-forestry/bylaw-enforcement-trees-or-tree-branches-decayed-damaged-hazardous-dangerous-on-private-property.html

    https://www.toronto.ca/311/knowledgebase/kb/docs/articles/municipal-licensing-and-standards/investigation-services/private-property-trees-pruning-a-neighbours-tree-branches-overhanging-onto-your-property.html

    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.

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