We are frequently asked whether the owner of a tree can be required to remove it if it is causing damage to an adjoining property. The answer to this question comes from the 1987 case of Gretchen Gallo v. David Heller and Beverly Heller, his wife, 512 So2d 217 (5th DCA).

In the above referenced case, Ms. Gallo brought an action against her next door neighbors, the Hellers, because they had allowed their Ficus and Melaleuca trees to encroach onto her property. Ms. Gallo claimed that such encroachment resulted in (a) branches damaging her roof, (b) tree roots cracking her cement walkway, (c) fallen leaves causing her pet Afghan hound to contract a severe allergy, and (d) shade from branches causing her vegetation to die.

The court was not impressed with Ms. Gallo’s case and found in favor of the Hellers. As the basis of its decision, the court set forth the following two rules of law that are followed by the Florida courts:

The rule at common law and the majority rule in this country, which is followed in Florida, is that a possessor of land is not liable to persons outside the land for a nuisance resulting from trees and natural vegetation growing on the land.

The adjoining property owner to such a nuisance, however, is privileged to trim back, at the adjoining owner's own expense, any encroaching tree roots or branches and other vegetation which has grown onto his property.

Accordingly, while other factors may have an impact on the above statements of law, generally an owner of a tree is not liable for damages caused by their tree.

The firm of Taylor & Carls, P.A., with offices located in Maitland, Melbourne, Tampa and Daytona Beach, Florida, was founded in 1981 and has practiced in the area of community association law since that date. This edition prepared by Robert L. Taylor, Esq. of Taylor & Carls, P.A. The information contained in The Association e-Lawyer should not be acted upon without professional legal advice.
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