Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,

I have a tree in my backyard for several years now, and it grew bigger than I expected. Unfortunately, a strong typhoon caused it to be partly uprooted so it is now leaning and protruding against the wall of my neighbor. My neighbor demanded that I cut off my tree as he claims that it poses danger to his property. While I admit that the current position of my tree threatens his property, I wonder if I can ask my neighbor to share the expenses in removing my tree since it is really large, and it will be costly for sure. Also, I am not in control of the natural movement of my tree, so I don’t think it is completely my fault and sole obligation to remove it. I will appreciate your advice on this matter. Thank you very much.

Enrico

Dear Enrico

It appears from your narration that your partly uprooted tree is already leaning down and protruding against the wall of your neighbor. And from this, you want to know if you can share with your neighbor the expenses in the cutting of your tree. To answer your concern, we shall refer to some provisions of the Civil Code of the Philippines regarding responsibilities of tree owners with respect to other’s properties. According to Article 483 of the law:

“Whenever a large tree threatens to fall in such a way as to cause damage to the land or tenement of another or to travellers over a public or private road, the owner of the tree shall be obliged to fell and remove it; and should he not do so, it shall be done at his expense by order of the administrative authorities” (Ibid.).

This cited provision is applicable to your situation since your partly uprooted tree can already be considered as a falling tree as it is already leaning and threatening to fall in the direction of the property of your neighbor. As expressly stated in this provision, the obligation to remove a tree that threatens to damage another property, along with the expenses involved in it, shall be shouldered by the tree owner. It is logical to make the tree owner solely liable since it is his property that causes or threatens to damage another property. The argument that you are not completely at fault, because you don’t control the natural movement of your tree cannot excuse you from the legal obligation of tree owners to answer for the damages caused by their trees as it is part of their property.

Another provision that may be applicable to your situation is Article 680 of the Civil Code of the Philippines that states:

“Article 680. If the branches of any tree should extend over a neighboring estate, tenement, garden or yard, the owner of the latter shall have the right to demand that they be cut off insofar as they may spread over his property, and, if it be the roots of a neighboring tree which should penetrate into the land of another, the latter may cut them off himself within his property.”

Considering that you mentioned your tree is protruding into the property of your neighbor, the law gives your neighbor the right to demand that they be cut off insofar as it extends to his property. Similar to the first cited provision, the obligation to remove the part of the tree that encroaches on another’s property lies with the owner of the tree. The exception to this rule is when the protruding portion of the tree is its roots. In such cases, the law allows the owner of neighboring estate to cut the protruding root himself.

Note that both provisions do not indicate any sharing of expenses between the tree owner and the owner of the affected property. Thus, while you may ask your neighbor to help you in the expenses in the removal of your tree, know that he may rightfully decline since it is your legal obligation to have it removed.

We find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to [email protected]