You have your trees in your garden and your neighbour has their trees in their garden, but what about the trees that grow on your boundary, who do they belong to? Trees with trunks that grow across the property line are known as boundary trees and these are considered common or co-owned property. And if an issue arises and tree removal is necessary, who is responsible?
Unfortunately, boundary trees can lead to disputes between neighbours, especially if one neighbour wants to keep the trees and the other wants to remove them. The law, however, favours the neighbour who wants to keep the trees and the Ontario Forestry Act Section 10 states that it is a prosecutable offence to injure or remove boundary trees without your neighbour’s permission. Failing to comply with the Forestry Act is subject to a fine or time in prison. Many homeowners and developers have fallen foul of this law and it has led to a costly court case with fines ranging from $6000 to close to $40000.
How does the law define boundary trees?
When deciding who a tree belongs to, you need to know that the Boundary Tree Ruling of 2013 established that the “trunk of the tree” includes everything from the root-collar to the trees lowest branch. If any portion of the trunk, as defined in the previous sentence, crosses the property line, the tree is considered a boundary tree and is subject to the rules of co-ownership. This means that even if the base of the tree is clearly on your property, it is not necessarily your tree. If at any point the trunk of the tree crosses over onto your neighbour’s side of the boundary, the tree is considered co-owned and you do not have sole control over what happens to the tree.
Before you contemplate any tree removal from the periphery of your garden, it is important to establish if they are boundary trees and to be aware of your rights and responsibilities. If you are unsure about the status of a tree, it is best to consult a professional tree service company for advice to help you determine who owns the trees in question.
What about City-Permits?
Don’t think you can bypass your neighbour and get the cities permission to remove boundary trees. Just because you have a City-permit to remove a tree, it does not automatically give you the right to do so, as the City-permit does not supersede the co-owners rights to keep a tree.
If a boundary tree is dangerous or poses a threat to personal safety or your property, then it will be easier to get permission to remove it. Martin Tree Service can assess your boundary trees and ascertain if they pose any risks.
Protecting trees is important
Most trees grow extremely slowly, and you should always think twice before removing an established tree from your garden. You may think that merely planting a new tree somewhere else will make up for the one you removed, but this is not entirely true. Trees are not only decorative, but they also filter the air, absorb carbon, provide shade for your garden and homes for a variety of birds and small animals. A tree with a 75 cm diameter stores up to 90 times more carbon, filter 10 times more air pollution and contributes up to 100 times more leaf canopy than a younger tree with a 15 cm trunk diameter.
Even though most cities have many city-owned trees, private homeowners are the majority of contributors to tree conservation. Trees growing on private land are part of a larger city ecosystem and it is important to conserve large, established trees in order to maintain a healthy urban forest.
Martin’s Tree Service will not only assist you with the physical removal of boundary trees, but we can also establish the status of the trees on your property and help you navigate the intricacies of the Forestry Act.