Neighbor sawed an overhanging branch off my tree - Germany

Easter surprise, legal consequences

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Just got back from a week's vacation in France (it was lovely, thanks). Let the kids sleep a few hours and just went out back to start hiding some eggs. Stop. Seems like the neighbors waited until they saw we were on vacation and have sawed off a major limb from my tree which was growing over their side. It's about 30 ft long and maybe seven inches circumference so it's a pretty big chunk. They threw it over on my side.

Background: The neighbors are really weird assholes. They don't grüss anyone, they're nasty to my kids, and their idea of neighborly communication is generally throwing sullen looks over the fence. You know the type. Some months ago they actually asked if we could saw off the limb sometime. I said sure, no problem...just let me know. That leads to my question. I have given them permission to saw it off. I'm pretty ticked off though, that they waited til I was gone for a week and then just heaved it over the fence without asking anyone. Does anyone know who is responsible for the entsorgung in such a situation? I'd really like to chuck it back over on their side before lunch as I assume their fat, ugly daughter will be visiting for Easter.
Fallen Angel
I guess what I would do is maybe break it up in manageable pieces. You and the kids could make really hideous decorations out it and give them to your neighbors as presents, making sure to let them know how much you appreciate them helping you out with that tree branch. You could take a big chunk of it, drill some holes in it large enough to fit candles and call it a table decoration. I would probably also be sure to carve the letters F.U. in anything you decide to give them.
Decorate the branch with those hanging German Easter eggs, have your kids make and attach a big "Happy Easter" sign to it, and give it [back] to them as a gift. I find it's best to treat these sour lemons with a bit of sugar...

In other words, don't let it ruin your day, or they win. And we can't have that. America always wins.
I think you should ask them to dispose of it, I don't think that'd be unexpected given that they were the ones who wanted it to go. Say that's what you'd assumed. On the other hand, your tree on their land... (I know we ain't in our homeland now but, in mine, it'd be considered my property so they couldn't just throw it away) Maybe you could put a positive spin on the first bit - presumably better for them to do it in terms of noise etc while you were not there (just an idea?).
Owain Glyndwr
they were perfectly within their rights to do what they did (including throwing the chopped off branch over the fence into your garden). Since you said you were ok with them doing it as well, I really don't see the problem.

Under German law, any branches overhanging your property can be trimmed and the trimmings returned.
Owain, I said they could cut it off. I'm not convinced it's my responsibility to dispose of it in such a situation. Anyone have one of those handy books on Nachbarstreit?
Owain Glyndwr
sorry but it is your responsibility.

Your neighbours asked you to cut back the branches, you didn't do it, so they did it for you. They fulfilled their legal requirement of asking you to do it before they acted. You didn't fulfil yours of doing it in a timely manner.
Owain, I didn't say they asked me to do it. They never asked me to do it. They asked if "we" could do it sometime. I even offered the assholes my help. I told them, hey, just give me a ring. The shitbirds did it when I was on holidays because they are spiteful dickheads.
[s][/s]I don't know what the regulations are in Frankfurt/Main but I know about Munich (this was my first case in hands-on legal training): If you want to chop off a branch that large on one side of a tree you need permission from the Untere Naturschutzbehörde as you can destabilize the tree with disatrous results. Generally, you receive the permit only if the tree is trimmed evenly on all sides.

Take lots of pictures of the tree from all angles, of the branch with a measuring stick next to it and of the neighbors' yard. Matter of fact, ring the bell, get their permission, go into their yard and take pictures from there as well. If they don't give it, do your best from the sidewalk or your upstairs windows.

The German language has a few delightful words, especially in the area of law and regulations; the one that comes to mind here is Baumfrevel - arboreal outrage, or - more official - malicious damage to a tree. It falls under § 303 Strafgesetzbuch:

§ 303
(1) Wer rechtswidrig eine fremde Sache beschädigt oder zerstört, wird mit Freiheitsstrafe bis zu zwei Jahren oder mit Geldstrafe bestraft.
(2) Ebenso wird bestraft, wer unbefugt das Erscheinungsbild einer fremden Sache nicht nur unerheblich und nicht nur vorübergehend verändert.
(3) Der Versuch ist strafbar.
(1) Illegal damage to or destruction of other parties' property is punished with up to two years in prison or a fine.
(2) Illegally changing the appearance of other parties' property is also punished if the change is not immaterial and/or temporary.
(3) The attempt is punishable.
So if trimming a tree lopsided is prohibited in Frankfurt/Main your neighbor is looking towards a fine at least. Your permission [s]to trim the tree[/s]* is immaterial in this case as it was not yours to give. Your neighbor is probably aware of the illegal nature of his action as he waited for your absence to complete it.

The authorities may commence action when you notify them; you can also file charges against your neighbor for changing the appearance of your tree in an illegal action. Your first call on Tuesday should be to the Rathaus to ask them for the facts.

EDIT: *to chop off that one branch
Owain Glyndwr
i thought permission is only required for trees under naturschutz, otherwise §910 BGB is the valid law.
Does it really matter which law it falls under? Its still against the law to cut a tree (of that size) in that fashion without permission.
If I remember correctly from my time in Frankfurt, The Forestry Dept people are super strict.
They nailed the military for something like 200k DM for cutting down a 8-9 tall pine trees without a permit..

Take lots of photos of the tree damage, and contact the Frankfurt Forestry Dept. (The ones who issue the permits).
If they agree that the damage falls into one of the many anti-cutting laws, they will prosecute your neighbor..

i thought permission is only required for trees under naturschutz
Nope, it also includes all trees over a certain size whether in a protection area or not.
Hint: The US military base is/was Priv. Property (of a foreign govt. at that...)
Nope, it also includes all trees over a certain size whether in a protection area or not.
However, that only relates to completely cutting them down. Cutting back branches is allowed.

Hint: The US military base is/was Priv. Property (of a foreign govt. at that...)
Technically, it's German public property owned by the federal government that has been temporarily loaned to the US military without charge.
It doesn't matter whether a tree stands on private property anyway, all German territory is affected (meaning all territory within German borders with the sole exception of embassies).
Cutting back branches is allowed.
However, depending on the size of the branches and other factors, a Permit usually is required.. (Even for trimming)
A bit of Googling has been revealing. Apparently if he undertakes the sawing himself, then he has to dispose of the branch himself. I'm about 99% certain on that one. So theoretically I could just chuck it back over the fence. But I'm thinking that would be less fun than option B...namely, letting him get entangled with German bureaucracy himself. It seems that he's run afoul of about eleventy-zillion different German regulations... wrong time of year, ignoring effect on tree health, not taking "Standsicherheit" into account...and my personal favorite...Misachten von Vogelbrutphase. I love that last one. Won't someone think of the birdies??

I'm just gonna leave it sit and make a sweet innocent call to the Gemeinde on Tuesday. Then I'll crack a Bitburger on the back deck and enjoy the fun.
Can you prove the neighbor cut the branch off? What if he just shrugs and says he doesn't know anything about it? I know it may seem obvious that he did it, but if claims he didn't, could the authorities still pursue him? Will they send out the CSI guys to examine his chainsaw?
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