It’s not unusual for a tree to be in more than one yard. Sometimes the trunk of the tree is in one person’s yard but the branches and roots extend into someone else’s yard. This can cause confusion about who has the rights to a tree and conflict between neighbours.
Sometimes neighbours agree to plant trees between their properties. Other times, trees are growing along the property line, with both yards having some of the trunk, roots and branches, even though the neighbours did not jointly plant the trees. This can happen when trees grow without being planted by anyone or when a tree is planted in one neighbour’s yard and then grows across the property line.
Under Saskatchewan property law “land”includes everything fixed to the ground as well as everything above (such as tree branches) and below the ground (such as the roots of trees).
In one leading Saskatchewan case the court found that when a tree on someone’s property grows into another yard the owner of that yard can cut back any part of a tree that is on their property. This would include roots or branches. Owners can cut back any part of a tree on their land even it could harm the ability of the tree to survive. However, the right to remove parts of a neighbour’s tree that are spreading onto your own land does not give you the right to go onto the neighbour’s land while doing this.
On the other hand, trees that straddle the property line between neighbours are generally considered to be jointly owned and cannot be cut down without the consent of both neighbours. However either owner can trim back branches or roots that spread onto their property.
Disputes involving trees are very fact-specific. Often problems can be resolved before they get to the point where there is talk of a lawsuit through discussions and compromise. If the situation cannot be resolved property owners may want to seek legal advice before taking any action.