From the Forum – Neighbor’s Tree coming into our backyard over wires

Photo by PoPville flickr user hellomarkers!

Neighbor’s Tree coming into our backyard over wires:

“I need some advice on getting a tree trimmed that is running over and under various wires coming out of the back of our rowhouse. The tree is technically located on our neighbor’s property, so we can’t request a removal. All we want is the branches trimemd that run into our property and wires, so we aren’t looking to pay someone, rather find the city service that will come and take care of it (since it is a potential hazard at any moment). I tried calling PEPCO and they said they only do ground wires and won’t touch a tree unless it’s interfering underground. What is the best way to get this taken care of? Do we call comcast or verizon? Do we call the city? Any insight would be very helpful.”

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18 Comment

  • ah

    Call Pepco back – does the picture above look like Pepco only deals with underground wires? Get someone who recognizes that they actually do that.

    Caveat – Pepco is likely to hack the tree to pieces. You might consider spending some money yourself to have it trimmed by a professional company instead so it looks decent. Again, see the picture above.

    • +1 On calling PEPCO back. They have had a pretty large program the past few years aimed at cleaning up branches around trees in efforts to reduce the power outages from big thunder storms. Last summer, PEPCO came through my parents’ neighborhood and took down a bunch of unsafe trees and limbs. I believe they took down or trimmed 5+ trees on my parents’ property alone.

      Also, the first step should always be: talk to your neighbor.

  • Get a ladder, some clippers and one of those saw/clippers on a pole and fix the problem yourself. Getting PEPCO, the City or a contractor will take way more time than doing it yourself. You can trim a neighbors bush/tree that is encroaching on your property as long as it is reasonable and you aren’t killing the plant.

  • I’m fairly sure you’re allowed to trim anything that crosses over onto your property, but I would get a professional to do so.

  • One of my trees was brushing against my neighbor’s house and when I noticed it, I had it cut back. When my neighbor saw the crew doing the work, he remarked, “I was wondering when you were going to deal with that”. I replied that I wasn’t aware of the issue and I wished he had told me about it earlier.

    Point is – ask your neighbor to address the problem.

  • Call a certified, insured arborist to assess the situation, and make the necessary cuts. Pruning around wires is extremely dangerous.

  • Agreed, when wires are involved, it’s usually not a DIY job.

  • DC law allows you to cut anything that crosses over onto your property, as long as it does not damage anything on your neighbors property. Get a certified arborist to come and cut the tree. We have to do this all the time in my alley.

  • If it is like my home, the above ground wires are simply cable since Pepco is underground in most of the heart of the city. While this seems to be your case based on Pepco’s response, I would just confirm that and then work with your neighbors to rectify it.

    Conversely, our cable was frayed due to a branch and Comcast came and replaced the cable and trimmed the branches – they were surprisingly helpful.

  • What is the best way to get this taken care of?

    open your wallet…..

  • Be prepared. People in this city go completely insane when you touch a tree. It could be dead and drop a limb on a baby and people would still fight trimming a branch.

  • Ask your neighbor to take care of the tree. It’s their responsibility. If you have to pay an arborist to take care of the problem you could pay it yourself and then sue your neighbor for restitution.

  • It’s not just District law, it’s fundamental common law. Anything that encroaches upon your property is a trespass.

  • This might be Urban Forestry (; however there are some restrictions as to what falls into their arena. If it’s on private property, it may be a private matter. Any branches that cross into your property line are your responsibility to trim (and I think you could even cut them completely back). It’s worth at least checking with Urban Forestry on whether it’s something they might handle or if it’s on you.

    Source: We had a huge branch fall into our back yard and alley that had been a point of dispute between our landlord and an adjacent owner. PEPCO came to handle the downed wire, but did nothing beyond that. Urban Forestry looked at it, and said it was not in their jurisdiction. We hired someone to cut up the branch that PEPCO had cut down from the wire, but left on the car/fence/yard. The tree was growing out of the neighbors yard, but had branches overhanging the alley and two other backyards. Our landlord was informed in no uncertain terms that upkeep of branches over her property were on her and her alone.

  • I think you’re only allowed to trim the branches to the edge of your property. If you kill the tree, it will then be your responsibility to reimburse the tree owner for damages etc. if they push it. Be careful.

  • We had a similar situation where a neighbor’s tree was hanging over much of our yard (although it wasn’t interfering with any wires, yet). We wanted to get more sunlight and have fewr leaves to deal with so we approached our neighbor about it. We asked that they take care of it or give us permission to have someone trim the tree at our expense. Since were were willing to pay for it, they pretty much told us we could do whatever we wanted. While I understand looking for someone else to do this, it might be to your benefit to just come up with the money and have a professional do it. It wasn’t that expensive, kept our relationship with our neighbors in tact, and got us the trimmed tree we wanted.

  • Professional arborist here:

    1. Call PEPCO again. They are most certainly responsible for keeping trees and brush away from their lines
    2. I agree that they may not do the best job. If you’ve got a little money, it’s better to have a tree care company do it. Make sure they have a certified ISA arborist present, they know how to work around wires, and they don’t top the tree (unless absolutely necessary.

    Use this to find local arborists for hire:

  • Jeez that’s rude of him. And very nice of you to have it cut back without him asking. Our neighbor’s tree hangs into our yard and touches the back of our house, but it’s a rental and quite impossible to get ahold of the owner. We’ll just end up doing it ourselves.

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