This article covers some common questions and answers regarding the rights and duties of neighboring land owners.
Can I force a neighbor to cut down the branches of a tree hanging over my property?
Your neighbors have a duty not to trespass on your property, and this may include overhanging tree branches or other plants extending from the neighbor’s property onto your property. However, it may be difficult to persuade a court to order your neighbor to cut back a tree or other plant, unless you can show that the overgrowth is harming you or your property.
Can I cut down the branches of a neighbor’s tree that is hanging over my property?
You may cut a branch, vine, or root of a neighbor’s tree or other plant that extends onto your property, but only back to the neighbor’s property line. You may not enter your neighbor’s property to trim or remove a tree or other plant without first getting your neighbor’s consent. If you wish to trim or cut down a tree that is close to a public road, you may need to apply to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for a permit. You should also check with your county and municipality to see whether they have other requirements you must follow in order to trim or remove a roadside tree.
Can I force a neighbor to pay for cleaning out my gutters clogged with leaves from his or her tree?
Under Maryland law, there is no cause of action available to you for the cost of cleaning your gutters of the leaves which have fallen from your neighbor’s trees.
Can I go onto my neighbor's property to perform needed repairs to my own property without his or her consent?
No. An unauthorized entry onto the land of your neighbor constitutes a trespass for which your neighbor could seek damages against you. Instead, you should first obtain your neighbor’s consent before entering their property. You should only enter that portion of your neighbor’s property to which your neighbor grants you access, and you should comply with any other lawful conditions they may impose.
My neighbor has put up a fence that goes over my property. What can I do?
It is essential that you determine the location of your property line. This can require a survey, which could be expensive. If it is found that the fence is on your property, you should take some action or risk losing ownership rights under the doctrine of adverse possession. Under that doctrine, the neighbor could obtain title to your property, if they possess the property for a twenty (20) year period, and such possession is actual, open, notorious, exclusive and adverse to your claim of ownership.
If you are unable to reach an agreement with your neighbor regarding the removal of the fence, you can file an action for ejectment.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 14-109