This is the third episode in our new video series covering common boundary structures. The prior episode depicts the written document used define each co-owner’s responsibility for sharing the cost of maintaining a shared party wall or boundary fence.

This episode covers the responsibilities for maintaining trees that are solely owned, government owned or commonly owned.

Line trees

Trees are:

  • solely owned;
  • government owned; or
  • commonly owned.

A tree’s ownership is determined by the location of its trunk.

Solely owned trees belong to the owner of the property on which the trunk is growing. [Calif. Civil Code §833]

Trees growing on government-owned parcels, such as a right of way for streets and sidewalks, belong to the local government.

However, shrubbery or trees whose trunks stand partly on the land of two adjacent property owners belong to the adjacent owners as tenants in common. These trees are called line trees or common boundary trees. [CC §834]

Adjacent owners who own boundary trees as tenants in common are jointly responsible for maintaining the trees. [CC §841]

Sharing boundary trees

Co-owners of boundary trees, as adjoining property owners, both enjoy the use of the trees.

For example, use of a boundary tree by adjacent property owners includes trimming and maintaining the trees. The co-owner who trims the tree needs to carry away and dispose of the tree trimmings. The co-owner needs also to take care not to damage the tree or interfere with the other co-owner’s use of the tree.

The use allowed a co-owner of boundary trees is the same as the use allowed the owner of solely-owned trees, as long as the use does not interfere with the other co-owner’s use and enjoyment of the trees.


To avoid disputes, adjacent property owners enter into an agreement detailing how they will handle the maintenance of boundary trees.

When a boundary tree injures the health and safety of a property owner or prevents them from enjoying their property, the tree may constitute a nuisance

and be removed. [CC §3479]

A co-owner of a boundary tree might refuse to consent to the removal of a boundary tree. If the tree constitutes a nuisance, an abatement of the nuisance is allowed.

For example, boundary trees may be a nuisance if their branches or the trees themselves continually fall, threatening the safety of people using the adjacent property or damaging improvements on the adjacent property. [Parsons v. Luhr (1928) 205 C 193]