Good Fences Make Good Neighbors: Part I

tulip-poplar-treeIf good fences make good neighbors, what does a 150-foot, at-risk tree do to neighbor relations? Let’s follow the email trail and find out …

Initial Salvo Sent From Elaine to “Sally” in late July

Hi, “Sally” -

We had a tree company come over the weekend to give us an estimate on tree work that needs to be done in our yard. We used them 6 years ago, too. At that time, the tree guy expressed concern about the poplar tree with the split trunk that’s in your back yard. He indicated it was just a matter of time before it toppled and, given its size, did a lot of damage to whatever it hit. We told “Joe” (who was in the house at the time), but he kind of blew it off.

The tree guy has increased his concern about the tree’s stability, saying that the split between the two trunks has increased and the root system is weak. He recommends removing it ASAP. There’s another, less expensive option of cabling it, but my understanding is that would just postpone the inevitable.

Given that, if/when the tree goes down, it would likely fall in the direction of the bedrooms of our two kids, we are motivated to help remove the tree. We would be willing to help out with the cost to remove the tree, if needed.

I’m going to put a copy of the tree guy’s estimate in your mailbox for you and your husband to review. I know he would be happy to discuss this with you, too, and his number is (222) 123-1234.

I’ll call over to your house and see if we can chat about this more in person over the weekend. Thanks, “Sally.” I guess this is one of the “joys” of living in a neighborhood with mature trees. Sigh.

Best, Elaine

Neighbor’s Response

I have forwarded your message to my husband. I do have some concerns but I feel there is a way we can come to a reasonable solution. Husband’s email addendum:  I am on a business trip right now. Can we discuss over the weekend when I get back?

Elaine’s Response to the Neighbor’s Response

No rush … definitely it’s a conversation for the weekend when we’re all around.

Thanks, Elaine

Two Important Contextual Notes for Wise Women to Know

  1. The cost of removing the tree is $4,000. (Sadly, you read that amount correctly; there is no extra “0″ included inadvertently.)
  2. About 90% of communication between neighbors in our neck of the woods occurs via email. Over the last year since they moved in, I have had one in-person chat with this neighbor plus about a dozen email exchanges ranging from information-sharing to school fundraising solicitations to expressions of concern when our dog ran away.

Next Chapter

Tune in tomorrow to discover how I handled the deafening silence that followed over the next three weekends.


  • Stacy Says:
    8-25-2009 08:11:29

    Elaine, have you called your homeowner’s insurance company? Do you know with whom your neighbor is insured?

  • Cindy L Says:
    8-25-2009 08:34:47

    OMG. I feel your pain, both with the cost of tree removal and the issue of genuine, person-to-person neighborly contact.

    We have a neighborhood e-mail chain too, as our subdivision — also old, with mature trees — is so large that it’s impossible to connect with all the neighbors on matters of Neighborhood Watch issues, security, etc. But we do host regularly meetings and family events on the parklike boulevards on the street, so that we do have some facetime.

  • Cindy H Says:
    8-25-2009 12:34:00

    We just had a huge tree removed from our backyard. And it was pretty pricey, but it was less than half the cost of removing the tree near you. It was a huge maple tree, with six individual trunks soaring from a huge base. We’d had it cabled and fertilized for a number of years, but the leaves were getting sparser, the bark was falling off, and woodpeckers were starting to peck at it. We’re so relieved that it was done. We don’t miss it nearly as much as I thought we would — thanks to the presence of so many other trees nearby.

    I’m fascinated by your saga with your neighbor and look forward to the next installment.

  • Anne Says:
    8-25-2009 21:13:28

    yikes, that price is enough to make you stall (let alone trying to negotiate with your neighbor).

    Wish I could send my tree guy south. I had about 10-12 trees removed for about $5000 this summer (which I know was a bargain). It might be worth you paying for his train ticket!

    Anxious to hear how this gets resolved. Not a comfortable situation.

  • Elaine Says:
    8-26-2009 05:28:10

    Great idea to consult the homeowners insurance! I knew I would end up calling them if something were to happen, but I didn’t think to consult them on a proactive basis.

    And thanks for the sympathy about the high cost of tree work around here. Parents may want to revise their thinking and aim for their kids to be doctors, lawyers or arborists!

  • Sharon Says:
    8-26-2009 21:14:31

    We had a dying poplar tree on our property line 25 years ago. I called the insurance company to ask what they would cover if the tree did fall, and the woman asked me why I didn’t have the tree removed. We were able to work with the neighbor and the utility companies (electric and phone lines were nearby) and the cost was split three ways. Good luck with your situation.

    1. Wise Women Coffee Chat » Good Fences Make Good Neighbors: Part II
    2. Wise Women Coffee Chat » Good Fences Make Good Neighbors: The Finale
    3. Wise Women Coffee Chat » Wrestling with Neighborhood Etiquette – Once Again!
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