Desert trees add beauty, coolness, windbreak

Coldwell Banker Best Realty Clint Freeman APRIL 2022 –

Trees in our desert community add a beautiful touch to any landscape whether the home is xeriscaped or laid with green grass. They add a coolness to the summer sun and can be a great windbreaker to the winds that arise. Trees are wonderful when they are mature and in full bloom in the springtime. Yet, trees can cause conflict when overgrown or when they are not properly cared for.

Tree disputes rate high among neighborly irritants along with barking dogs or unkept yards. One wonders what to do when a tree limb from a neighbor’s yard overhangs into their own yard. Or when the roots of a neighboring tree cross under a fence and crack a cement porch, sidewalk, or disrupts hardscape. Another growing concern happens when overgrown trees block out sunlight to a neighbor’s solar panels.

California has statewide laws that cover such issues. For instance, it is standard practice that a tree standing wholly on the land of one owner belongs exclusively to that owner, even though branches or roots may grow over the fence or into the land of a neighboring home. A next-door neighbor may trim branches that overhang into his or her property if they cause a nuisance.

However, if cutting overhanging branches or intruding roots seriously damages or destroys the tree, the neighbor would need to prove that the damage or nuisance caused by the branches or roots outweighs the value of the tree. If a tree is wrongfully cut, and results in damage to the life of the tree, the tree’s owner has the right to recover the cost to replacing the tree, or receive compensation of lost market value the tree may hold.

What about the issue of solar panels not receiving enough sunlight due to a neighbor’s overgrown tree? A homeowner does have the right to plant tall trees even if they block sunlight, or otherwise obstruct a beautiful view from the neighbor’s backyard or other portions of the neighbor’s property. No neighbor has an easement for “light or air” from his or her backyard.

However, there are a few important exceptions. One, a homeowner cannot maliciously plant or maintain a “spite” fence, including trees, exceeding 10 feet in height for the purpose of annoying a neighbor. Two, if there are CC&Rs, or city or county ordinances, that restrict the height of trees to preserve the view for neighbors. Three, a law known as the Solar Shade Act states that after a neighbor has installed solar panels, the next-door neighbor cannot plant a new tree which will grow so high as to cast a significant shadow onto the neighbor’s panels. The law does not apply to trees planted before the neighbor installed their solar panels.

And finally, if you are experiencing a conflict with neighbors due to trees, first approach your neighbor in a friendly manner. If that doesn’t solve the issue, the next step might be to seek legal council. Discuss with a lawyer the items above to verify. Remember, realtors do not give out legal advice, but we recommend consulting with a lawyer to verify the laws above and discuss the various legal options that are available in the event you experience a tree encroachment.

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To date there are 45 homes on the market ranging from $114,997 to $749,000.

Past three months’ price per square foot average of sold single-family homes: College Heights $185; NW $166: NE $163; SE $155; SW $164; RC Heights $170

Story First Published: 2022-04-22