Ripe fruit overhanging your property is a tempting sight. It can seem almost instinctual to pick the fruit before it falls and starts to rot. But, can you pick your neighbor’s overhanging fruit? Is it considered stealing even though the fruit is technically on your property?
It’s best to understand the answers to these questions before you start filling baskets with your neighbor’s fruit. While some people don’t mind sharing, you could find yourself on the wrong side of the law. Read on to learn more about the etiquette of picking overhanging fruit.
Can You Pick Your Neighbor’s Overhanging Fruit?
Generally speaking, you shouldn’t pick your neighbor’s overhanging fruit unless you ask for permission first. The fruit growing on a tree belongs to the tree’s owner, especially while it’s attached to the tree.
If the tree trunk is on your neighbor’s property, then they own the tree. However, there are exceptions depending on your state and local laws.
In Florida, Hawaii, and California, it is generally acceptable to pick your neighbor’s overhanging fruit, including cutting the limbs off the fruit tree branches that extend into your property line.
Some states also allow you to pick fruit off branches that overhang onto public property, such as sidewalks. Overall, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the local laws about who owns the fruit on overhanging tree branches.
Can you pick fruit from a boundary tree?
A true boundary tree means the tree trunk straddles the boundary line between your neighbor’s and your property. In this situation, you both own the tree. You typically have the right to pick the fruit growing on the branches that hang on your property.
Sometimes border trees are referred to as boundary trees because they are on the border of your neighbor’s property and create a “property boundary.” Although the roots or branches of the tree may extend into your property, the trunk is in your neighbor’s and the fruit can still be legally only theirs.
What is the punishment for picking your neighbor’s fruit?
In states where it is illegal, picking fruit off your neighbor’s overhanging tree without permission is theft. If your neighbor catches you, they have the right to call the police who may charge you with petty theft. It may seem absurd that someone would take you to court over fruit, but the situation has happened.
The punishment for theft, yes even for fruit picking, can include a fine and jail time. Generally, it depends on the value of the amount of fruit you stole. Most states have a dollar amount that can turn your petty theft charge into a grand theft one.
Who is responsible for trimming the branches if they overhang onto your property?
If branches from a fruit tree are overhanging your property, is the responsibility of the person who owns the property where the trunk of the tree is. So if a neighbor has a large fruit tree near the property line, and branches overhang your property, then he/she is responsible for trimming the tree.
Can you keep fallen fruit from a neighbor’s tree?
If fruit falls onto your property or into public space, like a sidewalk, from your neighbor’s tree, it still doesn’t mean you can pick it up. Generally, you still need permission from the tree owner to keep or consume it because the fruit belongs to them. Once again, this rule differs depending on the state.
For example, in California, fallen fruit from your neighbor’s tree onto your property is yours for the taking. In Tennessee, the fruit only belongs to the tree owner if it is still attached to the tree. Once it has fallen, you can claim it. While this may seem like good news, make sure you aren’t eating diseased or rotting fallen fruit.
Can your neighbor claim their fallen fruit on your property?
The question of whether your neighbor can enter your property to pick their fallen fruit creates a legal gray area. While the fruit may belong to them in certain states, it is still trespassing to enter your private property.
Since you can’t legally pick it up and they can’t legally enter your property to retrieve it, it can be best to talk to your neighbor and figure out a solution. Ideally, all you need is permission to keep the fruit from the tree owner.
The specific answer to whether you can pick your neighbor’s overhanging fruit depends on where you live. In some areas, it’s perfectly acceptable to claim those fruit as yours.
In others, you could be charged with theft if caught. So make sure to double-check your local laws. However, the safest bet is just to ask your neighbor for permission.
Most of the time, fruit trees are overflowing with plenty to share anyway and if the fruit falls on your property, they can’t trespass to get it. Luckily, people who take the time to grow and care for a fruit-producing tree are usually more than happy to spread around the harvest. So again, just ask permission!