Legal Question in Real Estate Law in California

My neighbor for 23 years came onto our property and cut 7 FEET off the top of one of our trees and took about 5 FEET off the sides.It no longer resembles a tree. And it looks as though it is dying now. An area of 20 FEET INTO MY YARD AND 22 FEET ACROSS the shared fence was cut and hacked, and the canopy of pure shade has been destroyed. It was not hanging over onto his side. If it was, he has every right to cut it straight up. Not 20 feet in and 7 feet off the top! He removed 3 small trees right from the ground and trampled 12 small trees and several other small plants. It took many years to create this "Secret Garden" and it was a perfect 'outdoor room'. Furniture and décor! Completely hidden from view, as it was in a deep corner of the front yard. No one ever knew it was there, as it was all hidden behind a huge Jacaranda tree. Now it is fully exposed and I can see all the way down the street and over all the fences. Exactly what we DID NOT WANT. Not a single ray of sun could penetrate the canopy and it was very noticibly cooler than anywhere else. It is now so sunny that I cannot spend time there without sweating and getting sunburned. It was my sanctuary. The place I came to think, to pray. My piece of heaven on earth. Desecrated and dismantled. I am chronically ill, as is his wife. I had been making decisions about my last wishes, Advanced Directive, etc. there. It was sacred. On the other side of my very heavy branches or even talk with us when we found out. We have always had a really good neighbor relationship. We just wanted to talk with him. We were upset and wanted to know why he did this without saying a word. All we got was "F you, my wife is dying and all you have to worry about is a tree. Get off my property". That is when my husband left. I stayed to yell at him to 'man up and pick up your mess'. He said that he would not, and I called him a "pussy". Well, that did it...he threatened me with "get off my property before I kill you". Never saw him behave this way and he looked crazy scary. He owns guns and carries one when walking his dog. I called the police. One young officer arrived and I showed him the mess. He said to work it out between yourselves, being neighbors for so long etc. No report was ever written and the call was merely given an incident report number. I understand his stress. His wife and I are both ill. She is not dying any sooner than me. It has been a nightmare since. I lost about 130 plants to his falling branches, trampling and removal of trees. I am devastated. I am retired and spend a good 12 hours a day for 2 and a half years tending to my nursery. He won't say a word to me. He now has surveillance on ME. I've never been so hurt and disrespected,upset and angry. This person has no concept of boundaries and is a known "peeping tom". Very, very, very sneaky, always creeping about in the night and in places he does not belong. Creepy and sneaky, sneaky, sneaky. Perverted and inappropriate with women. Always grabbing someone's ass. I don't play sick games and do not like knowing that I'm being watched and recorded at my own home. Please help!

Asked on 9/02/13, 4:17 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Bryan Whipple Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law

This might not be a police (criminal) matter at this stage, although it seems to me that the responding officer should have written and filed a police report. In modern times and especially in big cities, the cops have a tendency to tell folks in your position (or similar) "it's a civil matter," and then focus on violent crime.

Without a police report, you'll probably have to focus on your civil remedies, rather than expecting the cops and the D.A. to take up the cudgels for you.

Actually, you'll probably be better off retaining a lawyer and pursuing this through a civil lawsuit for trespass to land and (perhaps) private nuisance. You are entitled to treble damages, although initial proof of your monetary harm may be difficult. See, e.g., Code of Civil Procedure section 733 and Civil Code section 3346.

I would suggest having a licensed local real-estate salesperson and an arborist come out to look at the harm done, and give you a preliminary dollar value of the impact on your property. Later, you may want these people to testify for you, so choose them with care.

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Answered on 9/02/13, 5:16 pm

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