You can trim neighbor’s branches just don’t kill the tree

Q: I have a neighbor who has two large pine trees in his yard. The branches of one of them hang over my yard. Is it his or my responsibility to trim the branches that go over my yard? —B.

A: If you want them trimmed, you can give your neighbor permission to come on your land to do it. If he doesn?t, you have the right to cut the encroaching branches yourself, up to the lot line. You just need to be careful not to kill the tree.

Appraiser back off

Q: My home was built in 1984. Originally, it was active and passive solar, post-and-beam construction and very rustic. It sits on six acres. The house underwent an extensive remodel last year that took 13 months to complete. The house is now contemporary with high-end finishes and custom features. It’s a modest size, approximately 2,400 square feet.

I recently asked an appraiser (in business in this area for 30 years) to appraise the house, for no purpose other than my curiosity. At the first meeting, he said the appraisal would be difficult because he knew of no comparables. After a couple of weeks, I called to ask about the appraisal. He again said it was difficult, and that he was trying to figure it out. After that, he did not return my calls.

My question is this: Can a house truly be unappraisable? Do you have suggestions as to what my next course of action should be? — L. C., to

A: If you wanted an estimate for insurance purposes, the appraiser could calculate what it might cost to reproduce the building after it was destroyed.

But that’s not what you’re looking for. You want an estimate of market value — “what is someone likely to pay for this property?” While a qualified appraisal involves education, experience and standard procedures, it pretty much boils down to analyzing what the buying public has been paying recently for similar nearby property.

Your home sounds wonderful, but it also sounds unique. If there’s nothing to compare it to, the only way to determine market value would be to offer it for sale and see what the buying public voted.

You have an ethical appraiser there, giving you an honest answer rather than an off-hand guess.


They’re separated

Q: My husband and I are separated. I am going to take my name off of the deed. I know I would still be responsible for the mortgage. My question is: If I take my name off the deed, then can I force my husband to sell the house? — S.

A: You should be working with your own attorney. Perhaps you are and just don’t like the answers you’re getting. In most states, neither co-owner can force a sale of the family home as long as they’re married. It’s possible the wording on your deed might make a difference, but that would be rare.

At any rate, once you were no longer an owner of the property, you couldn’t?t force a sale. Perhaps the matter can be settled as part of other negotiations between you and your husband, but again, your attorney is the best guide there.


Sister on VA mortgage

Q: My husband, sister and I are purchasing a house. We can’t put 20 percent down or pay for private mortgage insurance. But he is eligible for a Veterans Affairs loan, so we’re considering that route.

How can we add my sister to the title/deed so that she has a right to live in the house should something happen to us? Any other options to this question would also be welcomed. — D. L.

A: If your husband is entitled to a VA mortgage loan, and if the two of you qualify financially without including your sister’s income, then you two can sign for the mortgage alone. She can be named in the deed as a co-owner, but she would not sign the mortgage documents.


Neighbor’s dock curves

Q: We own a family home on a lake. We have 135 feet of concrete seawall on the lake. Our neighbor has a dock on a 20-foot right-of-way next to us. He curves his dock 20 feet in front of our property. My question is what are our riparian water rights and where can I find more info on our rights? —

A: Your riparian rights mean you own the land up to the high-water mark of the lake. You own your beach and have unrestricted use of the water. The lake itself is owned by the government.

I assume your neighbor needed a permit to build his dock. You may want to take your question to the local building bureau or a lawyer.

Edith Lank will respond personally to any question sent to, to, or to 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.

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