Who is responsible for taking care of the tree in front of my house?

Trees for Energy Conservation April 27, 2016 Print Friendly and PDF

 Rights and responsibilities for trees in front of houses vary across states and municipalities. Residential yards abutting public roadways are often overlain by a right-of-way adjacent to the pavement that permits the municipality or state to maintain the road and related infrastructure. Trees are often planted by the municipality or state in the right-of-way for amenity, engineering, and environmental purposes.


In most cases, the municipality or state retains authority and responsibility for the trees. Sometimes, the municipality legally transfers responsibility of street trees to the adjacent landowner. Should a homeowner elect to plant a tree in the right-of-way, the homeowner may involuntarily relinquish ownership of the tree to the municipality or state due to right-of-way control. These rights and responsibilities are defined in municipal ordinances, administrative codes, or state laws.

Trees should not be planted in the right-of-way without first consulting local authorities because they may potentially create conflicts or hazards. The municipal department of public works or the state department of transportation can help clarify rights and responsibilities for roadside trees.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.