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TREE OWNER’S OBLIGATION

By: Atty. Karissa Faye Tolentino-Maxino

If a tree growing from my property is partially uprooted and leaning towards the house of
a neighbor, can I ask my neighbor that we both pay for removing it?
The law is silent on whether it is the absolute obligation of the tree owner to
uproot such tree nonetheless; there is also no prohibition that the owner cannot seek
help from the house or property endangered from such uprooted tree. Article 483 of the
Civil Code has provided the obligation of a tree which is threatening to fell down. It says
that: “Whenever a large tree threatens to fall in such a way as to cause damage to the
land or tenement of another or to travellers over a public or private road, the owner of
the tree shall be obliged to fell and remove it; and should he not do so, it shall be done
at his expense by order of the administrative authorities”.
This provision stresses that it is the tree owner’s responsibility to remove a tree
that possesses a danger to the neighbor or to the public in general and the owner can
be compelled to do so.

Granting that it was “nature” and not the owner that cause the tree to be
uprooted, does the liability still rests solely with the owner?
The argument that one is not completely at fault (because it was nature or say a
huge storm uprooted the tree) cannot be used as an excuse from the legal obligation of
a tree owner to answer for the damages caused by their trees as it is part of their
property. The tree that grows in one’s property is actually considered as part and parcel
of it, at least with regards to this provision.

If the tree is not uprooted and does not really pose danger but merely extending
some of its branches to another property; can the owner of the other property demand
the tree to uprooted?
Article 680 of the Civil Code of the Philippines is applicable in this situation. This
article provides that if the branches of any tree should extend over a neighboring estate,
tenement, garden or yard, the owner of the latter shall have the right to demand that
they be cut off insofar as they may spread over his property, and, if it be the roots of a
neighboring tree which should penetrate into the land of another, the latter may cut
them off himself within his property.
Hence, the neighbor has the right to demand that they be cut off up to the extent
that it extends to his property. Also, the obligation to remove the part of the tree that
encroaches on another’s property lies with the tree’s owner. The exception to this rule is
when the protruding portion of the tree is its roots. In such cases, the law allows the
owner of neighboring estate to cut the protruding root himself.