A Tree Grows Next Door

We have had some pretty serious storms this summer so here at Bergmann Law we wouldn’t blame you for looking twice at your neighbor’s big, beautiful tree. Especially if it has branches hanging over your yard or property.

opened brown wooden gate
Photo by Caio Resende on

The New Jersey Supreme Court holds that tree branches which overhang a property line can constitute a nuisance (Ackerman v. Ellis, 81 N.J.L. 1, 79 A. 883 (Sup. Ct. 1911)), and you have the right to trim any trees or shrubs that extend over into your property, so long as you do not harm or destroy the trees or plants and you only trim up to the property line. (Wegener v. Sugerman, 104 N.J.L. 26, 138 A. 699 (Sup. Ct. 1927)).

The same principal applies to the parts of plants that grow underground, too. If you suspect roots from a neighbor’s tree or other greenery are threatening your property, you have the right to remove those roots from your property as long as it does not harm the tree or plant.

But what if you’re not just worried about a couple of limbs? If the entire tree seems like it might be ready to fall onto your house during the next storm things are a little bit different. If the trunk of the tree is contained in your neighbor’s yard, it is your neighbor’s property and you can’t remove the tree yourself. But you can contact your local government. Most local governments have ordinances that prohibit maintaining any dangerous conditions (like hazardous trees) on private property.

Of course, each situation will be different, and resolving issues with neighbors requires a delicate touch. Let us review the facts and provide information about your specific circumstances and local laws, then come up with a plan that keeps your home safe and your relationship with your neighbor on good terms.

Exactly How Important Is My Home Inspection?

As I sit in Court, waiting for my client’s case to be called, observing the cases on the docket in front of me, wouldn’t you know it, the next one is a homeowner/Buyer (“Plaintiff”) suing the former homeowner/Seller (“Defendant”) for post-closing inspection issues. This case is dead on arrival, but it should at least be interesting.

blur close up focus gavel
Photo by Pixabay on

The story is the usual one. Seller and Buyer enter into a standard contract for the purchase and sale of a home. Buyer has a home inspection and plumbing issues are discovered. Major, water running down the walls, type of plumbing issues. Buyer makes plumbing repair requests and Seller says no. Buyer is a tenant and feeling pressure to close anyway because she’s already given her landlord notice. She has spent money on inspections and appraisals. She feels like she has no choice, so she closes anyway. Without the plumbing repairs and water still running down the walls.


Her agent told her she could just sue the Seller, post-closing.


Agents and brokerages were named, but only the Buyer was in the Courtroom and she was clearly shocked the “legal advice” from her agent was completely wrong. The Judge was patient. He was kind. He very gently told her she had no case as he read a large portion of the contract back to her and into the record. The Judge then ever so gently, entered judgement in favor of the Seller.

And by the way, what did the Seller have to say in his defense? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It wasn’t necessary. He didn’t even appear in Court, nor had he filed an answer to the complaint. He just sent in his lawyer and as it turns out, that was all he needed to do for absolution. Judgment in his favor, and nothing for the Buyer.

So, what is the moral of the story? Representation in the largest financial transaction you will likely make – or the advice and a chance to walk away from it – is always a good idea.

Call us before you close. Better yet, call us when you make your offer. Post-closing issues are rarely resolved to the satisfaction of a Buyer once you leave the closing table.

Don’t be that post-closing, unhappy homeowner. Protect yourself, your investment and your piece of mind.

Do I REALLY Need a Survey?

aerial view of buildigns
Photo by The Lazy Artist Gallery on

Raise your hand if you are an overwhelmed first-time home buyer and your real estate professional (lawyer, title agent or Realtor) asks – “do you want a survey?”

Well, do you?

The survey question comes up when ordering title but if you understand the significance in advance, you can make an informed decision ahead of time, rather than in the mad rush of quick decisions you must make following a signed contract.  Do you really NEED to spend another $500, or so? Well you might get lucky and get one for free- after all some townships in New Jersey require a survey before a seller can obtain a Certification of Occupancy. (Of course everything in real estate is negotiable so if you are in one of those townships, buyers and sellers sometimes agree to split or transfer the cost.)

But if you don’t need one for a CO, why spend the extra money?  Well without a survey endorsement on your title policy any and all disputes stemming from property line issues will not be covered. This means if you later find out your neighbor’s driveway is actually on your property, you will have a dispute, without title insurance that you will need to resolve in some fashion before you can sell your property. A dispute that would be resolved out of your pocket.

If your plans, post-closing, include adding a fence, deck, pool or other exterior features, many Townships require submission of an updated survey before they will issue a permit. So why not get it prior to settlement and be sure any disputes are resolved BEFORE you buy, your title insurance will cover you, and make your life easier when considering any changes down the road?

So, the next time you are in the market to buy or sell, consider the importance of a survey in advance and save yourself from making a snap or uninformed decision in the excitement and rush of a new deal.