Iowa's tree laws are a fantastic reason why it's important to always try your best to get along with your neighbors and/or at the very least, try and remain cordial. If you own a house/land and have a neighbor who's tree branches hang over into your property line, what happens if one of those branches falls on top of something that's on your property?

It may be a bit more complicated than you'd think. According to Iowa Realtors, Iowa's laws on trees and private property aren't exactly "definitive." However, there are a few basic rules all homeowners can and should follow.

There can often be disputes on who owns trees that are near property lines, who's responsible to maintain them, and if a neighbor can do anything regarding a tree that hangs over both properties. Who owns the tree is the easiest to figure out. Whoever's property the trunk of the tree is based, owns the tree.

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This is pretty easy to establish but can a neighbor trim branches or possibly take legal action if branches hang over into their property line?

Unsplash - Simone Franzke
Unsplash - Simone Franzke

General Rules Iowans Should Follow

According to Iowa Realtors, if neighbor A owns a tree that has branches growing over neighbor B's property line, neighbor B has multiple options they can choose from to take care of it.

Neighbor B could:

  • 1 - Do nothing and let the  limbs grow as it pleases
  • 2 - Ask Neighbor A to trim the tree
  • 3 - Trim or cut all limbs that are on his side of the property and up and down the property line, but cannot cross the property line. This is done at Neighbor B’s own expense

Option 1 - If a branch falls into your yard from a tree that you don't own, your insurance should cover any repairs that cause damage. You technically aren't responsible for maintaining a tree that is not yours and it is assumed you wouldn't have any knowledge on if the tree is unsafe.

Option 2 - You should put that into writing. If there is a potential dangerous issue with a hanging limb and you want you neighbor to take care of it, make sure you fill out a request and make copies.

Option 3 - If you decide to trim any branches that hang over your yard, you do assume some risk while cutting/trimming the tree. According to Iowa Realtors

While you are allowed to trim any limb in a reasonable manner that comes onto your property, in doing so, your maintaining the tree and thus has more knowledge about the tree. In this instance, if you notice that the tree is diseased, dying or dead, or unsafe, you must contact your neighbor and give them written notice that the tree needs to be trimmed or removed depending on the issue.

Unless there is something under a tree branch that you really, really don't want damaged, it's best to either kindly ask your neighbor to take care of it and explain your reasoning, or leave it alone. It appears that the more involved you get, the more liable you are if something does fall and cause damage.

Reason number 193 to try and maintain a good relationship with those who live next to you.

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