House Rules 101: Can I trim branches from a tree that overhangs my property?
But don't stop reading there. Degree matters. It's one thing to snip the ends of a few branches that have encroached on your gutters. Lopping off half a tree to improve your view or reduce fallen leaves is something else! Experts agree that if trimming damages the health or aesthetics of the tree, you could set yourself up for a lawsuit. And you shouldn't venture past your property line (without permission) to do the trimming, even if it would result in a "nicer" cut. Some cities and homeowners associations have their own rules regarding tree trimming and removal.
Our best advice: Long before the shears come out, talk with your neighbors about your concern. Asking for permission is definitely better than asking for forgiveness, and corrective pruning is best done before trees are already out of control. Your neighbors may even agree to come over and trim the tree themselves.
If you're planning a landscaping project, talk with a nursery professional about the growth characteristics of the trees you have in mind. For example, are they known for roots that tend to invade septic systems? How high do they grow (important if they could one day block a neighbor's view)? And are they prodigious leaf producers likely to create a raking chore for your neighbors when fall winds blow? Also, double check property lines before you or a contractor digs, and call 811 two business days beforehand to learn of any underground utilities that might be in your path.