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Posted 04/13/2020 in Homeowners & Tree Owners

Homeowner’s Guide - Tree Branches that Hang Over Sidewalks

Homeowner’s Guide - Tree Branches that Hang Over Sidewalks

Homeowners often wonder if they are responsible for tree branches that hang over sidewalks. Especially if limbs are hanging low blocking the public right of way. The answer is “yes”. The city is responsible for certain aspects of tree maintenance and as a homeowner you have some responsibility as well. In this guide, we’ll cover both sides of the equation. To begin, let's face it, overgrown trees and shrubs endanger us all when they block the view of traffic signs, pedestrians, bicyclists and driver’s on our roads. If the trees and vegetation are blocking visibility in the street, at an intersection, it is the responsibility of the property owner to trim the trees or whatever vegetation back. 

Keep in mind, this guide is more general, rules vary from city to city so it’s impossible to cover every situation with so many variations. However, as a responsible homeowner, it’s great that you want to understand what rules might apply to you. Not knowing the rules that most cities have won’t remove liability if someone is injured due to negligence so knowing what to do if tree branches hang over your sidewalk is important. If someone is injured because you thought your home maintenance responsibilities ended at the front door, it doesn’t matter you will be held liable. 

Attorney David Hormann a real estate attorney, said, “It is very much dependent on each community as to what your responsibility is and it typically extends beyond your home," so don’t just take our word for it. 

Here's what you should know about tree branches that hang over sidewalks.

  • No tree branch should hang lower than 13 feet over the roadway

  • No tree branch should hang lower than 8 feet over the sidewalk

  • All trees, bushes, shrubs, and other types of foliage shall not obstruct the visual sight of street signs or the illumination of streetlights

Who is responsible for trees that hang over your sidewalk?

Most city ordinances were adopted to address problems and keep it’s citizens safe, having rules in place does just that.  If overhanging tree branches and other bushes are causing higher than normal vehicle traffic due to signs it puts people at risk. If adults or kids are riding bikes down the sidewalk and a tree branch sideswipes them, that would be considered a problem, right? The city isn’t trying to penalize its citizens, they understand that trees make the city beautiful. However, property owners should be able to accommodate their needs and still stay within the ordinances that we are designed to eliminate damage to vehicles, improve traffic safety, and keeping the public right of way safe. As citizens, we have the right to walk down the street on the sidewalk without having to duck or get hit in the head by tree branches. 

Clearing Public Right of Way

Your cooperation is needed! Not just for your sidewalks, but also for streets and other public rights of way are for everyone’s use. The fact of the matter is property owners are responsible for their private trees and all other vegetation that is in the public right-of-way. Overgrown trees and vegetation is a safety hazard and limit the use of the city's sidewalks, trails, streets and alleys if your trees block or get in the way of these areas. Trimming vegetation and caring for your trees is an effective way residents can enhance neighborhood safety.

It’s your responsibility to prune your trees, trim or remove any vegetation that grows into and obstructs sidewalks, streets or alleys. For most property owners this is a great guide on tree branches that hang over sidewalks or get in the public right of way: 

  • Sidewalks: Limbs and vegetation must be trimmed back from the edge of and at least 8 feet above the sidewalk.

  • Streets: Limbs and vegetation must be trimmed back from the curb line which is the edge of the street and at least 14 feet above the street.

  • Trails: Limbs and vegetation must be trimmed back from the edge of and at least 10 feet above multi-use trails.

  • Grass and Weeds: Maintain grass and weeds at a maximum height of 12 inches throughout the property to the edge of the street or alley.

  • Corners and Intersections: Maintain vegetation at a maximum of 2 feet above ground within a 10-foot setback from the edge of the street and 40 feet along the curb line from the street intersection.

  • Fire Hydrants: Remove trees or plants within 5 feet of fire hydrants.


City Right of Way - What is the City Responsible For?

Depending on the size of your city or town, some will have street and bridge tree service crews that they contract with that are responsible for trees, shrubs, and vegetation maintenance that is in the city’s right of way. This included public roads, alleys, sidewalks, multi-use trails, and public trees. However, as a property owner, you are responsible for maintaining trees and all other vegetation to the edge of the street or curb? This is to ensure the travel and safety for all the cities residents, it is important to keep these areas free of obstructions. If someone in your community complains to the city, they could trim or remove trees that pose a hazard to the public if its a hazardous dead tree, diseased tree, or low hanging limbs over a sidewalk or the road. 

4 Tips on Tree Branches That Hang Over Your Sidewalk

1. Always have your trees looked at and trimmed by a professional tree service company, a certified Arborist will be familiar with industry best practices and standard pruning techniques, most will know the city guidelines. 

2. As a property owner, walk up and down the sidewalks on your property to identify low limbs that may be interfering with pedestrian traffic and locations where streetlights may be blocked by tree foliage. Traveling on foot gives you the opportunity to see what others have to go through while traveling near your property. It also offers the opportunity to observe the clearance between tree limbs over the street and the tops of passing vehicles.

3. Drive your car, use the same streets in your car and scan to see if there are obscured traffic signs and signals or limited visibility at intersections. Keep in mind that pick-up trucks, SUVs, and other large vehicles will have better visibility because they are higher up. As a responsible property owner, if you can identify visibility issues in a lower vehicle, you are much more likely to resolve any issues for drivers.

4. Do not attempt to prune tree limbs near overhead utility lines! If tree limbs are near power lines, contact your local utility provider if these tree limbs are conflicting with overhead power lines. 

How to get a quote for trees hanging over your sidewalk

1.    Look at your trees and decide which ones need to be trimmed.

2.   Do some research on tree service companies and read their reviews.

3.   Call and get a couple of bids (2 or 3).

4.   Don’t go for the low bid. Be cautious of low bids.

5.   Look at all of the little costs on the bid, make sure you ask questions, and get answers, they should explain each service and cost to you.

6.   Hire the tree service company you feel most comfortable with that is right for you.

Arborists Near Me

You are already in the right place. Arborists Near me makes it easy to find and connect with the best local tree service companies. Every tree service company in our network has a member profile, so you can read reviews, see how long they have been in business, and see pictures of their work. Companies must maintain a 4 of 5-star rating to remain a member of our network, this ensures that you are working with the best of the best. If you are considering tree removal go to the tree removal cost guide.

You have 2 options:

1.    Search, Find, Read Reviews, and Contact the companies of your liking.

2.   Click the button below, fill out the Tree Trimming Quote form below once it takes about 1 minute and get up to 3 quotes from professional tree service companies in your area.




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