Legal Question in Real Estate Law in California

illegal cutting down of trees on personal property

I live in the city of San Diego. My neighbor cam onto my property and cut down two of my trees without my permission. These trees were in my fenced backyard.

Does he have any legal right to do this?

What are my rights?

I know that if my trees are hanging over the fence, he may cut the part hanging over, but the whole tree? Two whole trees?

Asked on 9/10/05, 12:22 pm

4 Answers from Attorneys

Carl Starrett Law Offices of Carl H. Starrett II

Re: illegal cutting down of trees on personal property

Your neighbor is guilty of trespassing and can be held liable for damages for cutting down the trees without your permission. Assuming that you have proof that it was your neighbor, the tricky part is proving how much your damages are. In particular, the two questions I would have are how much has this impacted your property value and how much would it take to replace the trees. That amount will determine whether this matter belongs in superior court or small claims.

Something similar to this happened to my wife's parents. Their neighbor cut down some oleander bushes that were more than 25 years old and provided a lot of privacy at the property line. They hired an arborist who testified how much it would cost to replace plants and the judge awarded them $1500. Their neighbor paid and never bothered them again.

My office is in El Cajon if you wanted to call for a consultation.

Read more
Answered on 9/10/05, 12:49 pm

Lyle Johnson Bedi and Johnson Attorneys at Law

Re: illegal cutting down of trees on personal property

Check with the city code enforcement department. Many cities require a permit to remove trees after they reach a certain size. If San Diego has such a regulation and you have evidence that your neighbor cut down the trees then report this to code enforcement.

Read more
Answered on 9/10/05, 1:05 pm
Christopher M. Brainard, Esq. C. M. Brainard & Associates - (310) 266-4115

Re: illegal cutting down of trees on personal property

No, I don't think he can do that. I think he owes you some damages. You may contact me if you need representation on this matter. If so, reply by phone or email, thanks.

Read more
Answered on 9/10/05, 2:23 pm
Bryan Whipple Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law

Re: illegal cutting down of trees on personal property

You're right when you called it illegal! It's not only a civil trespass, I'd say it was also a crime...vandalism, malicious mischief, something of that sort. See, for example, Penal Code section 622: "Every person, not the owner thereof, who willfully injures, disfigures or destroys any (list of protected items) ...or shade tree growing therein, whether situated upon private ground or on any (list of public places), is guilty of a misdemeanor."

While calling the police and making out a crime report might initiate some punitive action, and you might even get an order that he pay you some restitution, it's less likely to get you proper damages than action taken in the civil arena. One big difference, however, is you don't pay the D.A., the State does; if you file a civil suit, you'll have to pay one of us lawyers.

Note also that Civil Code section 3346 provides for treble damages for wrongful injuries to timber, trees or underwood on the land of another, or the removal thereof. I haven't researched whether this applies only to commercial timber or whether it also applies to landscape trees in an urban setting, but I would imagine it does, at least as to a portion of the value lost.

Read more
Answered on 9/10/05, 6:10 pm

Related Questions & Answers

More Real Estate and Real Property questions and answers in California