Published on: Wednesday, September 16, 2020 News

What about my neighbor’s trees?


Maryland has adopted the “Massachusetts Self-Help Rule” that says you must assume responsibility for the care and preservation of your own property:

  • This means that you can cut branches from a tree on your neighbor’s property that extends into your property.
  • Always notify the tree owner first. However, you may not destroy the tree in the process, nor can you cut the tree down.
  • Also, you must stop at the property line unless the neighbor has given you permission. It is best to have that permission in writing.


When a tree or its branches fall, it is considered an “Act of God,” unless the tree was known to be dead or hazardous:

  • This means the portion of the tree and the damage from it that is on your property is your responsibility to clean up.
  • The portion of the tree that ends up on a neighbor’s property and any damage to the neighbor’s properties is their responsibility.


Such accidents are normally covered by the affected owner’s home owner’s insurance and are usually resolved by reporting a claim. The exception to this general rule is that the owner of the property where the tree originated may be responsible for damage to a neighbor’s property if the owner knew, or had good reason to know, that the tree presented a danger.

The City of Takoma Park encourages neighbors to discuss tree issues long before tree failure becomes a problem and responsibility for any damage becomes part of the discussion. If your neighbor’s tree is hazardous, you have communicated that to your neighbor and your neighbor is not addressing the issue, then the City may step in and require the neighbor to have the hazard mitigated.

A tree whose trunk (even a small portion of the trunk) straddles the property line may be a shared tree, a shared responsibility, and therefore any cost for pruning, maintenance or removal would be a shared cost.

The City Code allows for the issuance of a notice of violation to the property owner requiring the hazardoustree issue to be addressed within a certain time frame. For those property owners who have limited income, the city has established an Emergency Tree Fund to assist with the costs of removal of a hazardous tree. Residents can apply for those funds by contacting

Reporting Problems

  • If your tree is posing a threat to electrical lines or your house connection, contact PEPCO to get the issue addressed:
  • If you want to report an unsafe tree condition on City property, contact the City’s Urban Forest Manager at or 301-891-7612.
  • After hours, contact the Takoma Park Police Department at 301-270-1100.
  • To report tree issues on State roads such as Carroll, Ethan Allen, New Hampshire Philadelphia Ave, Piney Branch Rd, and University Blvd, contact the State Highway Administration at 410-582-5650 (District 3).

This article originally appeared in the September 2020 Takoma Park Newsletter.