What is self-help?

Property owners in every state have the right to trim the branches or roots of a neighbor’s tree that encroach onto their property, up to the property line, at their own expense. This right is called “self-help.” Self-help is an alternative to going to court. 

The rationale is that self-help prevents the wasteful use of the court system to resolve comparatively minor disputes. It’s a trade-off: you have the right to cut and remove the encroaching branches or roots of your neighbor’s tree, right away, at your own expense (i.e., use self-help), instead of having to hire a lawyer, start a lawsuit, and wait for the courts to sort it out. 

Using self-help saves you time and money, and keeps the courts from settling disputes between neighbors. In Minnesota, you have the option of using self-help or going to court, when using self-help is not practical or reasonable. In most other states, self-help is the exclusive remedy.

Show All Answers

1. What is a nuisance tree?
2. What is a boundary tree?
3. Who owns a boundary tree?
4. How do I locate the boundary lines for my property?
5. What can I do if the roots or branches from my neighbor’s tree encroach into my yard?
6. What is self-help?
7. What are the consequences of trespassing to cut down my neighbor’s tree?
8. What can I do about branches, leaves, fruit, and other debris from my neighbor’s tree?
9. Who owns the fruit on the branches of my neighbor’s tree that hang into my yard?
10. My neighbors cut down their tree that shaded my yard. Do I have any recourse?
11. Where should I go to seek legal help, if needed?