ROCKFORD (WTVO) — Do limbs from your neighbor’s tree hang over onto your property? Dropping branches and leaves onto your yard? Casting shadows and blocking your sunlight? Before you grab your landscaping shears, you may want to take into account whether it is illegal for you to trim your neighbor’s tree.
There are multiple property laws to take into account. For example, according to Illinois law, if the trunk of a tree is on the property separating two homes, the owners of both residents have a legal right to trim or cut the tree. However, they must first get prior authorization from the other neighbor in order to do so.
If the tree does not grow on both sides of the property and is solely growing on your neighbor’s property, then only he or she has the right to cut or trim any part of the tree. Unless the branches begin encroaching onto your (the non-tree-owner) property, then you may cut or trim only what is on or above your property.
If you’re a homeowner and wondering how much of your property you actually own, whether it’s the sky above or the ground below, the Federal Aviation Administration legally controls the airspace 500 feet and above your property, but if you wanted to build a 499-foot tower, you could — assuming you could get zoning permits to do so.
According to Zillow, you also own the land below your property as far down as you’d like, as property ownership is based on the Latin doctrine, “For whoever owns the soil, it is theirs up to heaven and down to hell.”
A property lot is defined by boundary lines shared with neighbors, but — does a homeowner own property all the way to the street?
Even though a person’s driveway is their own property, the sidewalk that crosses it is part of an “easement,” or a right to use someone else’s land for a specific purpose. This means that while residents are granted use for the entrance to and the rest of their driveway, the sidewalk is owned by the city or county.
Under the guidelines of the Illinois State Code Section 2, residents are not allowed to trim or cut another resident’s tree without first obtaining the legal right to do so. If found in violation of the law, those individuals will be required to pay the owner of the tree three times the overall worth of the tree before it was cut down. It is then up to the Director of the Department of Natural Resources in the state of Illinois to determine the overall worth and value of the tree. The department has a maximum of 30 days to evaluate and report its conclusions to the Illinois courts. If an individual were to refuse to pay a fine levied by the courts, they will then be found in contempt of court.