Trees, Boarders & Notices to Vacate


Q: Woke up last night to the sound of my neighbor’s tree crashing through the roof of my garage.

Q: Woke up last night to the sound of my neighbor’s tree crashing through the roof of my garage. Not the whole tree, but sure seemed like it at three in the morning! A giant branch broke off his oak tree, came crashing down and took out the fence and half of my garage. I think there is more to come because this oak tree is very old and has lots of branches that seem to all grow my way. Many are 30 feet or more in the air and extend 20 to 30 feet into my property. What are my rights? Can I make him cut down the tree?

Over-hanging tree branches are considered a nuisance and can be abated. Your neighbor, if the tree is his, will be responsible for the damage caused by the falling tree branch. Additionally, you have certain limited rights to use “self-help” to prevent further damage or injury. The courts recognize your right to cut the tree branches that extend beyond the property line, provided that such self-help does not adversely affect the health of the tree, i.e., you can trim, but you can’t kill it!

Alternatively, you could file a civil action for recovery of your damages and to abate the nuisance by requesting the court to order the neighbor to “abate the nuisance” by trimming the tree. You cannot require your neighbor to “cut down the tree” nor can you require him to trim beyond the property line. One issue to check before you get too upset with your neighbor is to see where the trunk of the tree sits. If the entire trunk originates entirely on your neighbor’s property, then it is his tree, and he bears the responsibility for any damage it may cause. If the tree “straddles” the property line, then you and your neighbor own the tree as tenants in common. In that case, it doesn’t matter how much is on his or your side, you own it equally and are equally responsible. In that case, neither property owner may remove the tree without the adjoining neighbor’s permission. You may trim the branches that extend in your direction, but may not destroy the tree.

Q: My folks are getting on in years, have limited income and are considering renting out one of the bedrooms of their house to a local college student. They could use the extra income and it might be nice to have someone around the house. I’m not sure it’s a good idea though; I’m afraid that if there is a problem, and the kid doesn’t leave peacefully, that my folks will have to go through a full blown eviction. Not sure if that is worth the time, expense and emotional aggravation! Your thoughts?

The good news is that provided your folks own the home and it is a single family residence, and they only rent a part of it to one person, the “lodger,” then there is a little known exception to the requirement of filing an unlawful detainer action to remove him or her. Upon expiration of the termination notice, seven days if week-to-week, 30 days if month-to-month, then the uncooperative lodger can be physically removed pursuant to California Penal Code Section 602.3 as a trespasser. No civil action is necessary and your folks will not have to file and prosecute an unlawful detainer action. The lodger will be guilty of an infraction and may be arrested by either your folks, you as their agent, or the local gendarmes (police/sheriff).

Q: I understand that the 30-Day and 60-Day Notices to Vacate have been changed to comply with changes in the law. What changed?

Since January 1, 2013, all Notices to Terminate Tenancy, whether 30-day or 60-day, must include specific language on the face of the notice in order to be valid. The necessary language is as follows:

“State law permits former tenants to reclaim abandoned personal property left at the former address of the tenant, subject to certain conditions. You may or may not be able to reclaim property without incurring additional costs, depending on the cost of storing the property and the length of time before it is reclaimed. In general, these costs will be lower the sooner you contact your former landlord after being notified that property belonging to you was left behind after you moved out.”

You should ensure that the notices that you are using contain the required language. In the event you have any recent notices that have been served and not yet expired, you should ensure that they contain the correct language. In the event you or your attorney proceeds with an unlawful detainer action based on a notice that does not include the required language, then the court can rule in the tenant’s favor and require you to start over.

This article is presented in a general nature to address typical landlord tenant legal issues. Specific inquiries regarding a particular situation should be addressed to your attorney. The Duringer Law Group, PLC, has successfully handled over 225,000 landlord tenant matters throughout California, and has collected over $130,000,000.00 in debt since 1988. The firm may be reached at 714.279.1100, toll free at 800.829.6994 or 877.387.4643. Visit for more information.

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