Your Guide to Tree Care in Northeast Ohio HOAs

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Ohio is home to more than 8,000 Homeowners Associations (HOAs), comprising more than 600,000 homes and 13% of the state’s population. Although there are monthly fees associated with living in an HOA, many appreciate the benefits offered by these communities.

However, certain aspects of HOAs can be confusing, especially when it comes to tree care within an HOA in northeast Ohio. For example, do you know who owns the trees in these neighborhoods, who is responsible for maintaining them, and if something goes wrong, who should be held liable?

If you currently live in an Ohio HOA, or are considering moving into one, then this guide will help you better understand tree care within these communities.

Key Takeaways: What to Know About Tree Care in HOAs in Northeast Ohio

  • Generally, if a tree is on your property within an HOA in Northeast Ohio, you own the tree and are responsible for its maintenance.
  • If a tree not on your property drops branches or debris onto your property, it’s your responsibility to clean it up.
  • If a tree not on your property falls onto your property, you’re generally responsible for cleaning it up and repairing damage, unless the owner (the HOA or your neighbor) knew the tree was dying, damaged, or diseased beforehand.
  • If your tree is overgrown, obstructing right of ways, or is causing damage to sidewalks or roads, your HOA may require you to correct the issue or they may have it done on your behalf.
  • In general, plan to get permission before doing major pruning, tree removal, or tree planting, as every HOA has different policies and regulations.

Who Owns the Trees in Ohio HOAs?

The general consensus is that where a tree is rooted determines ownership of the tree. Within Ohio HOAs, if a tree is rooted on your property, then it’s your tree and your responsibility to maintain the tree.

Who is responsible if a tree in an HOA causes damage?

When it comes to damage caused by falling branches or falling trees, Ohio law states that where a tree falls determines who is responsible for the damage. So, if a tree in a common area falls onto your property, you’ll be responsible for cleaning it up, even though the tree originates from property maintained by the HOA.

Likewise, if a tree on your property falls or drops a large branch onto your neighbor’s home or vehicle, they will be responsible for the damage, even though it’s technically your tree.

What if the tree was a hazard before it fell?

The primary exception to this rule is when a tree was dead, dying, or diseased. If the tree was already a risk factor, the owner of the tree should have had it removed before it caused damage to anyone’s property. If your dead tree ends up falling onto a neighbor’s property, or commonly owned property, you may still be held liable for the damage, since you should’ve removed the tree.

That’s why, no matter what, you should have dead or dying trees professionally removed from your property as soon as possible if they could possibly damage property or injure someone.

Branches from a large, neighboring tree hanging over a home in Portage County, Ohio.

Common Tree Problems in Ohio HOAs

When it comes to trees and tree care in HOAs, what are some of the issues homeowners are faced with? Here are a few of the more common examples.

Branches Hanging Over Your Home or Property

If a tree is not on your property, but its branches hang over your home or property, can you do anything about it?

In Ohio, the general rule of thumb is that yes, you can trim back branches from your neighbor’s tree, or from an HOA-owned tree that is hanging over your property. However, care must be taken to trim these branches properly so you don’t cause unnecessary damage or death to the tree.

Don’t cut any part of the tree that is not on your property. You also can’t cut the branches and drop them on the owner’s property. If the branches are hanging over your property, they’re your responsibility.

Best practice would be to consult with the tree owner, be it your neighbor or the HOA, before you trim any branches, even though you may have the right to do so. By consulting with the HOA first, they might handle the trimming themselves, so you don’t have to, or at least grant you permission to do it.

Trees on Property Lines: Who Maintains Them?

Trees can often be found growing on property lines. In this case, ownership of the tree is shared. If a tree sits on the border of your property and the HOA’s common area, you can’t decide to remove the tree on your own. You’ll need to come to an agreement with the other party.

If you want to trim or remove a tree on the property line, get permission from the HOA first. You may also be able to share the cost associated with removal of the tree and hauling the debris away.

Roots Damaging Sidewalks & Hardscapes

What if a tree whose trunk is entirely on your property has roots that damage community-owned sidewalks or other hardscapes? In this case, the HOA may want to trim back the tree roots to prevent and repair damage to their property. They may hire someone to do this or may request that you do it.

The problem is that trimming roots can be extremely harmful to trees and should be avoided where possible. Extensive root trimming can permanently damage or kill a tree, and make it more prone to failure during a storm or heavy snowfall.

Your HOA should notify you before doing anything to the tree. If you aren’t sure how to proceed, it may be best to have a certified arborist who has experience working with HOAs inspect the tree in question to provide the best possible solution for both parties.

Leaves and Debris Falling onto Your Property

No one wants to clean up other people’s leaves. So, what happens when a tree in a common area is littering your private property with leaves, twigs, and debris?

Unfortunately, the litter that lands on your property becomes your responsibility. If it falls on your lawn, it’s generally not a big deal, since HOAs typically handle basic lawn care and cleanup for all households.

But what about leaves that fall onto your roof and clog your gutters? This is your responsibility. If you want to avoid this, you should request that the trees causing this problem be trimmed back by the HOA.

A residential street in an HOA in Northeast Ohio where tree species are regulated.

Tree Care Policies and Restrictions Within an Ohio HOA

While HOAs across the state tend to have pretty similar policies and restrictions, each individual HOA is different and may have different precedents.

Here are a few of the things you’ll want to understand fully when it comes to your specific HOA.

Tree Planting Restrictions

One of the primary purposes of an HOA is to regulate the appearance of the neighborhood. They do this, in part, by dictating the types of trees and plants that are allowed in the neighborhood. This keeps the entire neighborhood looking consistent and aesthetically pleasing.

Because of this, homeowners in an Ohio HOA can’t just plant whatever trees they want. The governing documents of your HOA should list all approved species. They might do this to:

  • Limit trees that grow too large for residential lots
  • Limit trees that are overly messy, such as those that drop fruit that can stain driveways and sidewalks
  • Limit trees that attract pests
  • Limit trees that are susceptible to disease or infestations
  • Limit trees that have an unkempt appearance
  • Avoid introducing invasive species into the neighborhood

Likewise, planting locations may be regulated as well. So, before you plant a new tree, get permission from the HOA. Otherwise, you may end up having to remove your new plantings, wasting both time and money.

Tree Maintenance Policies

How you maintain trees, and how often you prune them may also be dictated by your HOA. HOAs in Ohio want healthy, strong, beautiful trees to grace the landscape. Mature trees play a big role in creating a neighborhood that people want to live in.

As such, the HOA may encourage homeowners to prune their trees on a regular basis to ensure they look their best. They don’t want trees to become an eyesore, so that includes removing deadwood or removing branches to create a certain shape that is consistent with the rest of the neighborhood.

Arborists from Independent Tree removing a large tree at a home in eastern Cuyahoga County, OH.

Tree Removal Policies

Some HOAs will expect homeowners to consult with them before removing a tree from their property, even if the tree sits entirely in their yard. This requirement will vary depending on the specific HOA. But, when in doubt, consult with your HOA first to potentially avoid any fines or headaches.

Even if it’s your tree, the trees in the neighborhood are part of the larger backdrop. If one home removed all the trees on its property, it could create a negative aesthetic that isn’t in line with the rest of the community.

Aside from getting permission, your HOA may already have contracted tree removal companies that they would prefer you work with. This helps the HOA ensure each tree removal job is done with the same care and quality within their community.

Need HOA Tree Services in Northeast Ohio? Call Independent Tree!

Most homeowners that live within an Ohio HOA do so by choice, and they appreciate the benefits afforded by the community. It’s just important to understand that ultimately, everything related to tree care should first be run through your HOA to ensure you aren’t going against any policies or guidelines that could cost you down the road.

Both homeowners and the HOA want what’s best for the neighborhood, and healthy, mature trees are always a big part of that.

If you live in an HOA in eastern Cuyahoga, Geauga, Portage, and Lake Counties in northeast Ohio, and need professional tree care, or if you serve on an HOA board in this area and need to maintain your community’s trees, then please give us a call at 440-564-1374 or use our online form to set up a tree care consultation. Our teams of certified arborists have extensive experience working with HOA boards and property owners throughout northeast Ohio; we’d be delighted to help keep your community looking its best!

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About The Author

Alan Kraus owner of Independent Tree in Newbury, Ohio

Alan Kraus

Alan Kraus is the founder and owner of Independent Tree, a full-service tree care company in Northeastern Ohio serving Eastern Cuyahoga, Geauga, Portage & Lake Counties. Alan is a certified arborist with a lifelong love of trees and with roots in the community he serves.  More About Alan >


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