Who Owns That Tree and What Are The Rules?

Thursday Nov 05th, 2020


What a great article by Chris Kamariankis, from Protect Your Boundaries on what you can do about 'the' tree.  And Chris is an expert on all things to 'protect your boundaries.'


How to resolve boundary tree disputes in the GTA

Over the past five years we at Protect Your Boundaries have witnessed an astonishing number of boundary disputes involving trees. Typically, these disputes will involve one of two scenarios:

  1. A neighbour removes or harms a tree that they believe is theirs (to the disagreement of their neighbour);
  2. There is a desire to remove a tree that one neighbour believes is encroaching on their property, while the other neighbour disagrees.

Unfortunately, these disputes can get very heated, very quickly. The fear of losing a beloved tree is real, and the results are both immediate and permanent. You can’t just plant another 50-year old maple the next day!

So, what are the rules, and who enforces them? If you find yourself in a similar situation, on either side of the fence, here are some basic guidelines to consider.

  1. If any part of a tree Trunk is over the boundary, then it is considered a “boundary tree”.
  2. The Trunk is defined as the portion of the tree between the “root collar” and “branch collar” (where the first main branch and the first main root split off the main trunk in the direction of the boundary.
  3. A boundary tree is considered shared regardless of how much of it is on each side of the property line. All rights, obligations, costs and liabilities are shared equally.
  4. The Ontario Forestry Act says that you cannot cut a Boundary Tree down unless both neighbours consent to it (even if you have a permit from the City).
  5. Each municipality has different levels of involvement in disputes involving boundary trees. Check with your local by-law office.
  6. Lastly, if a tree is NOT a Boundary Tree but its branches are hanging over the neighbour’s yard (or roots are interfering with the neighbour’s patio) you are allowed, without seeking permission, to trim the offending growth providing that you don’t kill the tree or cause structural damage to it.

The experts who will help you navigate all this are: a Land Surveyor to determine where the property boundary is;  an Arborist to tell you where the root and branch collars are as well as tell you how much of the tree you can trim without damaging it; and the Municipal By-Law office to tell you what your local regulations are.

Remember! Never just cut a tree down…follow the process and get it right!


Chris Kamarianakis is CEO of Protect Your Boundaries, the most comprehensive online resource for Greater Toronto Area (GTA) homeowners seeking the knowledge, tools and services to prevent and resolve land and property boundary issues. For more information, visit www.protectyourboundaries.ca

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