My plants need a lawyer.
June 7, 2016 10:20 AM   Subscribe

My neighbor caught my ivy growing on their wall. They're a coop. I own my attached building. Their tree sticks its branches into my walkway. What kind of lawyer handles these types of disputes? Have any of you had experience with this and can recommend someone? We are in Manhattan.
posted by Obscure Reference to Law & Government (18 answers total)
I would hire a licensed arborist, first. There is a corps of volunteer licensed arborists in NYC. Ask him to review the tree and the ivy and do a report about all possible encroachments on both sides with the growth / obstruction potential. Much cheaper than a lawyer and will win kudos from coop definitely to probable action without misgivings.
posted by parmanparman at 10:24 AM on June 7, 2016 [6 favorites]

Frankly, doesn't really seem like a situation in which you want to go hiring lawyers right off the bat, based on the information you've given. But really, I don't see how anyone can answer the question based on that sparse paragraph. Could we get a little more information than you've given? Who's objecting to what? Have you tried working it out with the neighbor before calling in lawyers? What did you say and what did they say, in what form, and how did those discussions turn out?
posted by holborne at 10:26 AM on June 7, 2016 [18 favorites]

I knew this sounded (vaguely) familiar. Check out this recent post on the blue about "tree law" a specialty i didnt know existed until i read that post.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 10:27 AM on June 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

You haven't specified any dispute at all, just mentioned some seemingly unconnected things some plants are doing. Is somebody demanding that somebody else take some action they don't want to take? I don't know the laws in your jurisdiction but they typically spell out pretty clearly who owns bits of vegetation intruding across property lines.
posted by contraption at 10:32 AM on June 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: They have requested that we hire someone to trim our vines which encroach on their property.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:46 AM on June 7, 2016

Ok, so then why do you need a lawyer? Why not just trim the vines that encroach on their property?
posted by holborne at 10:57 AM on June 7, 2016 [45 favorites]

As mentioned, tree law is a thing, but part of what comes out of that article is that the trees are a proxy for whatever the "real" problem is.

They have requested that we hire someone to trim our vines which encroach on their property.

Why don't you want to do this?

Would you also want them to hire someone to trim the tree that encroaches on your property?

Would you be willing to pay for the tree trimming if they paid for the vine trimming?

I don't understand what your desired end goal is here.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:58 AM on June 7, 2016 [13 favorites]

The only reason I can think of to hire a lawyer is if they have refused to trim their tree branches. Or, if you haven't asked them to do so, if you're trying to provoke a weird fight with them.
posted by sarcasticah at 11:00 AM on June 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

Get some trimmers and trim your ivy off their building and then trim their branches from over your walkway.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:01 AM on June 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

To answer the question - you want a lawyer that specializes in private nuisances if you are looking to go into legal representation.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 11:03 AM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's still not clear what you're trying to accomplish. Depending on what their wall is made of and its condition, ivy can damage it, so their request is entirely reasonable. (For that matter, as it's their wall, even if it's not going to be damaging it, they have every right to not want it there.) Unless all parties agree, growing invasive and potentially destructive plants in or on neighbor's property isn't a good thing to do.

Are you just trying to go tit for tat over the issue with their tree? If it's an actual issue for you, you ask them politely to trim it back. It's kind of bizarre that you're asking about lawyers rather than talking it out with them.
posted by Candleman at 11:06 AM on June 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

Get some trimmers and trim your ivy off their building and then trim their branches from over your walkway.

You (OP) prob do not need to be told this if you own property in NYC, but do not alter the neighboring co-op's property even if it is overhanging onto yours.
posted by griphus at 11:09 AM on June 7, 2016 [7 favorites]

I've had the experience of my attached neighbours' wisteria vines crossing their back porch to our mudroom and finding their way across the roof and between the eavestrough and the house. I asked them if they wanted to trim them, or if they were okay with how I trimmed them. Then we had a glass of wine on the porch after we did it together. Do you want to be neighbourly, or do you want to be right? Isn't it better to be good neighbours than to have to always be careful?

In Toronto, even privately-owned trees are covered by city by-laws. I'd suggest calling 311 to find out if there are any ordinances, and to find out what any next steps might be if it's reasonable for you to ask for pruning of their tree.
posted by peagood at 11:12 AM on June 7, 2016 [11 favorites]

Thank them for the shade and pull your ivy down. The only lawyer you need is one who sidelines as a yard guy, which seems silly.
posted by myselfasme at 11:54 AM on June 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: We have been trimming back their tree but they have not been trimming back "our" ivy. We have suggested they trim it themselves as we have been doing with their encroaching vegetation but have not yet gotten a response. We have not reached a lawyer stage but because of some previous situations with them, I am anticipating it as a possibility and thus want to be prepared.
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:05 PM on June 7, 2016

Mod note: A few comments deleted. Folks, a bunch of other points have been raised, and at this point, please stick to the "lawyer recommendations" part of the question.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:44 PM on June 7, 2016

I'd look for a property lawyer who also deals with nuisance law.

I might suggest going to them for advice as to what your rights and responsibilities actually are first, before getting them to take any actions on your behalf.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:28 PM on June 7, 2016

It seems a bit premature to be hiring a lawyer for this. In general a portion of a tree (and I would presume a vine) that extends across the property line to the neighbor's property can be trimmed by the neighbor. I think it even becomes their responsibility. I think your neighbor is on their own to trim the vines. Likewise you may trim branches from their tree which overhang your property. In some states there is no limitation how much trimming you can do, in others not so much that you kill the tree. Certainly a lawyer can help with this for a price, but I sure a little googling will get you a good enough answer to start having a conversation with your neighbor. Even your tree guy can probably tell you what the law is and point you to the statute etc. If you do need a lawyer I would start with someone who does real estate law and has a litigation practice, not just transactions.
posted by caddis at 11:27 AM on June 8, 2016

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