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Home owner can trim tree back to property line

February 21, 2020
By ERIC FEICHTHALER - Real Estate Law , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Mr. Feichthaler:

Our house is located at a freshwater canal in Southwest Cape Coral. On the vacant lot east of our property, huge Scottish pines are growing along the canal. Several branches (20 to 25 feet long) are now hanging well over our pool cage and their roots are invading our property and spreading well into the lanai lifting up many pavers. We are afraid that the next hurricane could affect those trees next to our property and they could fall onto our pool cage. The roots could damage our pool shell. Both damages could become very costly. Is there anything we can do to encourage the owner of the vacant property to clean out the most damaging trees next to our property?

- Frank H.

Dear Frank:

Especially in a pre-platted community like Cape Coral, where properties are small, these types of issues crop up frequently. It is generally a benefit to plant shade and other trees, but when they grow, they may become more dangerous than beneficial. The trees you mention, pines, likely have grown naturally along the canal bank, since it's a vacant lot. Specific facts can be very crucial to an analysis of a dispute like this, but the Florida law is clear in a general sense: If the branches or root of a tree extend beyond the property line onto your property, you have the right, without permission or approval, to trim them back to the property line. Moreover, the property owner is not obliged to the trimming, or compensate you for doing so. A different conclusion may result when the tree or branch is dead or otherwise unhealthy, which may create an affirmative obligation on the part of the property owner possessing the tree.

Generally, I suggest that my clients reach out to the property owner, state your concerns and perhaps come to an agreement for permanent removal of the entire tree. It is likely that the vacant lot owner has no interest in the tree remaining, and may appreciate splitting the costs of removal with you. However, if they are uncooperative or unresponsive, trimming up to the property line is your right. There have been cases in Florida where this trimming has led to the death of a tree, and that tree had a special value, so seek counsel to determine the best way forward in your situation.

Eric P. Feichthaler has lived in Cape Coral for over 30 years and graduated from Mariner High School in Cape Coral. After completing law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., he returned to Southwest Florida to practice law and raise a family. He served as mayor of Cape Coral from 2005-2008, and continues his service to the community through the Cape Coral Caring Center, Cape Coral Historical Museum, and Cape Coral Kiwanis. He has been married to his wife, Mary, for over 18 years, and they have four children together. He earned his board certification in Real Estate Law from the Florida Bar. He is AV Preeminent rated by Martindale-Hubbell for professional ethics and legal ability, and is a Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil Mediator.

Mr. Feichthaler can be reached at, or (239) 542-4733.

This article is general in nature and not intended as legal advice to anyone. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting on any matter of legal rights and obligations.



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