The distance of the plantations is undoubtedly one of the main sources of conflict between neighbors. The distance of the plantations from the property line, the branches that protrude on your property, the nuisances caused by plants … So many topics likely to generate tensions between neighbors, especially on the pruning of trees.
The law does not give permission to cut or prune your neighbor’s trees if he does not maintain them. You can cut the roots, brambles or twigs that arrive on your property. But you cannot take care of pruning the neighbor’s trees yourself, even cutting the branches that stick out on your land.
Article 673 of the Civil Code is clear: if your neighbor does not fulfill his obligations regarding pruning, we can therefore force his neighbor to prune his trees.
If branches protrude on the public road, the sidewalk or the street, the town hall can take action against the owner of the land on which the tree is planted. He can send a letter of formal notice, and without response proceed to the forced execution of the pruning of the tree.
Conversely, the municipality is not bound by the same constraints and can plant trees on the edge of private land. However, the municipality is obliged to maintain its trees, otherwise you can have the trees of the municipality pruned, or force this execution.
The Civil Code provides for a regulatory distance for plantations. It is Article 671 of the Civil Code that defines this distance.
The rule of principle is simple :
The law therefore provides for an area of 50 centimeters on the edge of the property line, in which no plantation can normally be located. Then there is an area of 1.5 meters in which only trees less than 2 meters high can be found.
This is a rule of principle, which may therefore have exceptions: The local planning regulations may indeed provide for stricter rules. It is then necessary to consult the plan or the urban planning regulations of your municipality or the regulations of your subdivision.
The jurisprudence of June 13, 2012 thus recalls that Article 673 of the civil code is not of public policy and that it can be derogated from. Thus, a subdivision regulation may oblige to protect and maintain the vegetation on the land regardless of their distances from the separating boundaries.
The distance is calculated between the property line and the middle of the tree trunk (and not the nearest or farthest branch). It is therefore the distance to the ground that interests us and depending on the plant species, the right-of-way may be much larger in width than in height.
Acquisitive prescription is a mechanism by which a party loses the right to act against a fact or damage that would have existed for a prolonged period.
The acquisitive prescription is 30 years.
Concretely, this means that a tree or a shrub that does not comply with these requirements of the civil Code for more than 30 years could no longer be the subject of a legal action.
The starting point of the prescription is variable depending on the location of the tree.
Concretely, the acquisitive prescription if it can be proven by the owner of the tree will prevent the neighbor from requesting the felling of the tree.
Another way to protect an old tree that brings character to a property is to have it classified.
Whether the planting distances are respected or the tree benefits from the acquisitive prescription, its branches cannot advance to above the neighbor’s property. Any owner can force his neighbor to prune the branches that overhang his property. This right is not subject to the acquisitive prescription, but may be restricted by a subdivision regulation for example.
The judges of the court of cassation have even decided that this right can be exercised regardless of the consequences, even if the tree must die (3rd civil chamber of May 31, 2012, appeal n° 11-17313).
Be careful, however, it is strictly forbidden to carry out the pruning of a branch yourself. If you cut a branch without the consent of the owner of the tree, then you will be responsible for the consequences that will follow.
It is different with the roots that advance, and you can perfectly cut them at the limit of your property.
What fate for the fruits that grow on these branches? The fruits that are on an overhanging branch of your property belong, in principle, to the owner of the tree.
It is therefore forbidden for you to pick them from the branch of fruit trees.
On the other hand, as soon as they fall to the ground, they then become your property and you can dispose of them freely. It must of course be clarified that, in the same way as the prohibition on picking these fruits, you cannot cause them to fall (by shaking the branch for example).
Beyond all these very specific rules, the common law of responsibility also applies with regard to plantations.
Trees and plantations can cause nuisances for the neighborhood :
The nuisances are multiple, and can be real even if the hedge, the tree or the grove would be at a good distance and without overhang. There is no specific text for each of these cases and the responsibility of the owner will be implemented by article 1242 of the Civil Code.
In this case, you will have to formulate your prejudice and express your request to your neighbor. Your neighbor, the owner of the plantations concerned, will then be able to follow up on it. If he does not follow up, you can then initiate a more official amicable procedure, or force your neighbor to prune his trees via a legal action.
Since January 1, 2020, it has become mandatory to attempt an amicable resolution of all neighborhood disputes before a legal action. In an attempt to reach an amicable resolution, only conciliation, mediation or a participatory procedure are retained by the courts.
With Justeo. fr we offer you a 100% online process to comply with this new obligation, and more than that, help you quickly resolve your dispute with your neighbor. Based on the information provided, we send a registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt to your neighbor, mail designed to be more effective than a formal notice. We inform him of your request and encourage him to accept it or negotiate an amicable agreement.
One of our Justeo experts, certified mediator, will accompany you until the electronic signature of an agreement, which will have the same legal value as a court decision after homologation.
Regarding the distances of the plantations, the rule is written. The judge’s discretion will therefore be very limited. He will be content to appreciate the distance of the trees relative to the boundary of the land and relative to their height. It is obviously necessary to be able to determine the limit. If this is not possible, you will first have to make a boundary marking of the land.
If your neighbor wishes to enforce the prescription, he will have to prove the age of the tree (or its height) to avoid its total felling.
If your action is on the ground of responsibility, it is on the judge’s assessment that your action will be based. You will have to prove the existence of the damage and its causality with the trees concerned. And even so, it will be up to the judge to decide on compensation in kind (felling or pruning) or in damages.
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