Does Our Neighbor Have a Legal Right to Harvest the Apple Tree on Our Land?

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My father and I bought land. Before we bought the land, the man that lived there let the neighbor plant a apple tree on the property. My father thinks he owns the property in which the apple tree is located on. We had the land surveyed and it is in fact ours. My dad wants to cut the tree down on our side. The neighbor said he will talk to his wife about the matter. My dad told him he didn’t have to ask anyone because the tree was on our property. My brother wants to put a fence up. What do you think we should do? Does our neighbor have a legal right to harvest the apple tree on our land? Thanks.

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You have a potentially very complicated issue here and the answer will depend on the specific history of your property, as well as the laws of your state. All other things being equal, you would expect that a tree on your land (verified as your land by a survey) is your tree, and you’re pretty much free to do with it as you wish (within any local laws, of course).

The problem, here, is that the prior owner “let” the neighbor plant that tree. We don’t know the exact nature of that agreement, and we don’t know how the neighbor accessed his tree between then and now. For example, since it’s an apple tree, I assume he was harvesting the fruit, which means going on your land to do so.

Between the agreement with the prior owner and the intervening use, your neighbor may have some rights to this tree and to access it. Those rights would obviously be interfered with if you cut it down, or even fenced it in. For that reason, I would advise you first to try to reach an amicable agreement with the neighbor. Failing that, before you do anything unilaterally, consult with a local attorney so you know the real extent of your risk.

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Author: House Attorney