Ask the Mayor: How Maui Deals With Tree Maintenance
The mayor answers questions from the public in this series.
By Mayor Alan Arakawa
Q: I live on Ehu Road and there’s a neighboring property that has a lot of eucalyptus trees.
During Hurricane Iselle one of the trees fell down and blocked our street for days; another one crashed down on my fence.
Is there anything the County can do to make my neighbors take care of their trees?
A lot of the trees on their property are next to the road, and the last thing any of the residents here want is another roadblock. Please advise.
A: The County cannot get involved in what is essentially a civil dispute, unless the trees that fell were on a County property or right-of-way.
The best approach would be for you and your neighbor to try to resolve the matter on your own; if that is not possible, the law states that you may file a complaint for damages in court.
A Hawaiʻi Intermediate Court Appeals opinion from 1981, which has become case law for countless other cases across the country, indicates that “When overhanging branches or protruding roots actually cause, or there is imminent danger of them causing, sensible harm to property other than plant life… the damaged or imminently endangered neighbor may require the owner of the tree to pay for the damages and to cut back the endangering branches or roots and, if such is not done within a reasonable time, the damaged or imminently endangered neighbor may cause the cutback to be done at the owner’s expense.”
The opinion also states that “A landowner may always, at his own expense, cut away only to his property line… any part of the adjoining owner’s trees or other plant life.”
I’ve posted the text from the court decision regarding fallen trees on my blog; to read it visit www.mauicounty.gov/Mayor and click on “Mayor’s Update.”
Want to Ask the Mayor?
Submit your questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa via email: [email protected], phone: 270-7855 or mail: 200 S. High Street, 9th Floor, Wailuku, Hawaii 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the Ask the Mayor column.