My neighbour wants to cut down a tree that provides privacy and shade for my backyard. It’s growing on the property line, so who owns it?
A: The ownership of a tree that is located on or near the property boundary can be complex: trees with a portion of the trunk straddling the boundary line are considered co-owned, belonging to both property owners. If one co-owner wants to remove the tree, the property rights of the other co-owner must be respected. A significant ruling by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in 2013 clarified the issue of tree ownership (or possibly permanently confused it), deciding that a tree is jointly owned if the base of the tree (the root collar) extends across the property line. In cases like this, you will need a land surveyor to precisely locate and stake your property boundary to determine ownership of the tree.
Be aware that a City of Toronto bylaw regulates removal or injury of a tree measuring 30 centimetres or more in diameter as measured 1.4 metres above ground level. There are also stringent regulations that apply to trees along waterways or ravines that may also involve the conservation authority. In these situations, consider having a surveyor locate the trees and prepare a Topographic Plan.