Who is the responsible party regarding shrubs that we did not plant on out property but which are now causing damage?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Who is the responsible party regarding shrubs that we did not plant on out property but which are now causing damage?

My neighbor planted low growing shrubs on my property before we bought it. We only found out that she planted them when they began to get undermined from rainwater and she wanted us to remove them. We live on a hill so water flowing downhill is inevitable. Who is responsible for removing the shrubs and repairing the lawn? Can we be forced to remove them?

Asked on March 28, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Massachusetts


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If it is *your* property, you decide what to do with them: you can choose to remove them, or you can choose to let them be--she has no say over what you do, but obviously could offer to pay to remove them, if that would convince you to do so. (If she does, get the money in advance if possibly, or at least her written agreement to pay.)
Because they were planted before you bought the property and so don't know whether she had either express/explicit, or at least "implicit" (i.e. former owner knew and did not object, effectively ratifying this) permission from the former owner, you most likely cannot, however, force her to remove them: it is unlikely you can prove their planting was wrongful or a trespass.

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