FAQ - Civil

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CC & R's | Civil Questions | Signs: Yard and Boutique Sale | Special Events | Municipal Code

Please note that by their very nature, most of these FAQs are brief, or carry a shortened version of the actual code section that covers any specific question. You are encouraged to read the actual section available on-line in the Code Compliance, Ordinances & Backflow Prevention page to obtain the full code.

This is a complex and ever-changing section of neighbor law and enforcement. As the name implies, these items are civil matters between two parties. The below guidelines are just that, some common guidelines and interpretations from state case and common law in the United States. This information was obtained from the book Neighbor Law by California Attorney Cora Jordan which is printed by the NOLO press. Remember that laws change, and you should always research the current local law or speak to an attorney prior to taking any action.

1. The neighbor next door waters his yard way too much and the excess water is flooding my side yard, I have tried to talk to him but he won't stop watering.

The Town of Gilbert does not control or regulate the flow of water between two residential properties.Like anything else a person may be held responsible for any damage caused by their intentional neglect or carelessness however no specific laws or ordinances cover this activity. If there are any further questions on this type of activity please contact Water Conservation at 480-503-6892.

2. The neighbor's messy tree drops leaves into my yard, I want it stopped or the tree cut down, what are my rights?

This is one of the oldest questions plaguing neighbors and neighborhoods, there are no specific laws that deal with a tree, however, case law and common law have established some regulations and guidelines. Some of the more germane laws are listed here:

A. Who owns a tree? - It is accepted law in all states that a tree whose trunk stands wholly on the land of one person belongs to that person. If the trunk stands partly on the land of two or more people, it usually belongs to all of the property owners and is considered a boundary tree (special laws apply) this is not often the case in the newer western United States.

B. The only remedy a property owner may have is to trim the tree himself
Property owners in every state have the right to cut off branches and roots that stray into their property, in most cases this is the only help that is provided by the law, even when damage from a tree is substantial.
As a general rule a neighbor who trims an encroaching tree must follow certain guidelines.

The neighbor

  • Can trim only up to the boundary line
  • Needs permission to enter the owners property, unless the limbs threaten to cause imminent and grave harm
  • May not cut down the tree itself
  • Cannot destroy the tree by trimming.
  • Must warn or give notice to the tree owner prior to commencing work and give them the opportunity to trim it themselves.
  • You cannot destroy either the structural integrity or the cosmetic symmetry and appeal of a tree by improper trimming.
The tree owner 
  • Must allow access as needed.
  • In Arizona at least common law shows that a tree owner may be responsible for damages caused by a tree that is not maintained.
  • Can choose to trim the tree or have it trimmed themselves if they decide to.
This is a complex issue that would benefit from the neighbors talking and communicating their concerns before a problem arises. In the case where a agreement cannot be reached neighbor mediation or even small claims court may be wiser than taking the law and a chain-saw into your own hands.

4. The tree next-door hangs into my yard can I trim it?

See the above answer the same rules apply, you can trim a tree but it is risky. Basically the best idea is to meet with your neighbor unless you can reach an agreement with the neighbor or receive a court judgment you are responsible for cleaning up the leaves on your own property. As a note, throwing the leaves back onto your neighbors yard is not allowed, even though it seems fair you are intentionally and knowingly littering another persons property and you can be prosecuted for illegal dumping. The same law would apply to the public streets and right-of-way.

5. The neighbor's dog is damaging my fence - who has to pay to have it fixed?

People can be held responsible for any damage done by their domestic pets, the real question here would be whose fence is it in the first place. Boundary fences are considered mutually owned so both parties are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the fence in the first place. This is truly a situation where ownership is a major question, and talking to your neighbor or mediation is the only real answer other than court.