Neighbor wants us to cut down our privacy trees so they can install solar – what would you do?

Hi! I’ve been following these forums for a while & recently have been in a situation with a neighbor that’s well…a little annoying. We have a small homestead at the end of street, the people who lived here before us kept all the trees, grew live privacy fences etc, you get the idea. Most often people don’t know our house and by design our neighbor’s houses exist because they’re covered by nature basically. It’s great because it allows us privacy both livestock and garden wise and it’s quiet. 

I got a text recently where she asked if we would consider cutting down our trees that line in between our properties. They are on our property. The reason? She wants solar and was told that she couldn’t have it unless all the trees were gone. The side and back of her lot too is heavily forested as is ours and we were told by the solar company years ago that we would’ve had to do the same thing so we just have small portable solar panels to run the barns. My husband said no, as did I because one of the very reasons we bought the property was for the privacy it provided us with. What would you do in this situation and would you prefer privacy/hidden areas or solar? 

Thanks in advance! 


  • Comments (33)

    • 8

      Welcome to the TP forum, ST Homesteader,

      I’d have done the same as you, a nice “No”.

      If any narrative required, I’d have written: “I have preexisting obligations not to change landscape (or other appropriate word[s])”. This requesting person need not know who or for what reason you have the trees.  End of discussion.  Keep good notes and original correspondence from person.  Also keep your own replies.

      I personally prefer privacy / hidden areas.  Solar equipment is subject to theft. It’s better to have a home with tranquility. Here, I cannot get a permanent generator (“U.P.S.” – Uninterrupted Power Supply) because they are stolen as a matter of routine. We like tranquility and safety. 

      Looking forward to your participation here at forum.

      • 7

        Thank you! Yeah, those are my thoughts too. I do have all the texts saved so…we’ll see. Honestly I think the reason she even is considering it is out of concern for power outage situations etc because just last year she was telling me how much she loved the privacy. If it were her trees and stuff, fine, she can do what she wants. It just seemed to come out of the blue. 

    • 10

      Sounds like the only benefit you would get from this would be to have a happy neighbor. 

      A compromise would be to have them pay for the removal of trees and planting of a lower hedge wall or something that would be lower and allow the solar on their side, but provide a bit of privacy on yours. But you really are under no obligation though to help them out, it’s your property and you come first. 

      I think I’d prefer solar than privacy. But would still build some sort of wall that wouldn’t impede the panels but offer some privacy protection. Solar is such a great resource and it would be comforting to not rely on the grid. 

      • 4

        Oh, I totally understand that. When we looked into it years ago we had to decide if losing all the trees and thus the privacy was worth it and we decided it wasn’t.  And you’re right, that would be a good compromise.  I don’t think she was really thinking clearly at the time and I was just, quite frankly, shocked that she asked me if I would remove our trees for her benefit. 

      • 7

        One of the things to consider with having a wall of trees, bushes, fence, or whatever that provides privacy against those looking at your house is that those same things will also provide privacy for a burglar snooping around your house trying to find a way to break in. 

        If I was a burglar, I would hop a fence and then I’d have all day to sit there and look at the house and all of your neighbors wouldn’t be able to see a burglar just sitting there. Its much harder to break into a house in the middle of an open field, you’ll see them coming and your neighbors will see them coming.

        Just be aware of that if you are in a high crime area. But from what it sounds like your vegetation provides great cover, so much so that your house is pretty much invisible. That could be great protection in a SHTF scenario when looters are going around looking for targets.

      • 5

        For sure! We’re pretty lucky here because while we live in a neighborhood I’ve had parents of my kids friends say, “I had no idea there were houses all the way down here!” We also have some cameras set up due to the livestock with light alerts because yes, being enclosed like that does give issue to the situations you posed. 

      • 4

        Have you had a chance to talk to your neighbor yet?

      • 4

        It’s so strange. I feel like she may have had a panic attack or something and in that moment she had to have solar, she started the process without thinking realistically because there’s been…nothing. After that first rash of texts, just now back to normal texts about her cat. But unfortunately it kind of put me off because now, as much as I’m trying to be understanding about this, what’s going to happen next time? 

      • 3

        Thanks for sharing your experience, it’s helped me not feel so alone with issues I’ve been having with my neighbors. I get along well 90% of the time, but every few weeks they totally shock me with something out of the blue with some behavior or request. It pulls me back from trusting them as much and then we go for a while with things like normal and I start to trust them again and then bam! another surprising event. Now I’m always on guard and am just wondering when and what is going to come next.

      • 7

        Exactly this. I get having a panic or anxiety attack and certainly COVID is not helping with the situation because people are feeling out of control and well, unprepared so I understand that she wanted something for security. But this went overboard. You’re not alone. 

    • 7

      Plus, don’t forget, unless much costly legal work to get deed changes reflecting new arrangements such as no trees on STHS property, the requesting person could sell their house in 8 months. The new owner is not a pleasant neighbor.

      Related to above;  The requesting owner dies and house gets sold by a court. The new buyer is not a pleasant neighbor.

      The STHS property now has no trees, no security from the original aspects of the botany, probably reduced value and not even invited to the loud parties new owner has on both weekends and weekdays.  The new neighbors have wake-up music some do not care for.

    • 5

      Question I have for you smalltimehomesteader is how is your relationship with your neighbors? You obviously are close enough to have their number for them to text you. Do you guys get along? Do you ever do things like BBQ’s or give Christmas gifts to each other? Do your kids play together?

      Will saying no to this request drive a wedge between you? Are they the type of people to retaliate and hold a grudge?

      And a question I have for everyone else, what do you do if you and your neighbor are not getting along? How can that compromise the security of yourself, your house, and your preps?

      Not wanting to scare you into complying with them, just want to drum up some conversation about possibilities. We are here to be prepared for all situations right?

      • 6

        We get along but it’s like with everyone else on the street, we watch out for each other but we all keep to ourselves. It works out really well. I think I was just surprised by her request because one of the things she told me was that she bought that house specifically because of the privacy. 

      • 5

        I’ve always been on the more cautious side and wanting to please and be a good neighbor. I’ve probably taken a bit too much grief and stress from crappy neighbors than I should have because I wanted to keep the peace and not have retaliation. That’s something I need to improve on though and I need to hold my ground and not let them walk all over me. So I’m not the best example. 

      • 6

        Good morning Conrad,

        In reply; Adjustments, refinements of overall security plan. Discussion subject matter here can compromise my personal security/that of family, my house and grounds w/ barn and my overall prep arrangements and efforts.

        I would max out my use of a pre-existing neighborhood watch program, check with house insurance company on need for any risk management tailoring, eg more theft insurance, more liability insurance.

        For my area of fruited plain, if feasable (I am old), would consider relocating.

        I’ve been through actual events referenced above.


    • 4

      ST Hometeader

      From what I understand you value your privacy created by the existing and natural environment and your neighbor also values her privacy for the same reasons.

      The sudden change is because she is afraid of power outages if I understood the situation correctly?

      Maybe the solution is to compromise on both sides.

      Are you able to plumb in a liquid natural gas generator? If so, it can be housed in a fortified building and locked into cemented fittings like some people do in their garages with their Harleys to discourage theft.

      Even portable generators should still be able to be housed or caged into enough of a locked down position to deter thieves. A poured cement pad, bury the eye bolts and find a way to bolt the gen set into the cement.

      If you and your neighbor could both work together on this solution, you have the benefit of both addressing power outages. You both get to retain the privacy you enjoy.

      The bonus is that the relationship remains intact as neighbors who can assist each other due to proximity, especially for two households with security vulnerabilities that can happen in an isolated and very private location.

      It could be win-win for both households.

      • 5

        We can’t do the gas but the generator thing is feasible. I honestly don’t know why she became so fixated on solar all of a sudden. 

      • 8


        What works for me is the direct route. I would just tell her with your husband present, that you are not cutting down your trees because you prefer the privacy they provide. Don’t be apologetic, keep your tone neutral and your words clear and simple and brief.

        This next part is optional; You could tell her that there are other options other than solar, for an emergency, such as the generator and that it could be installed so to prevent theft.

        If the neighbor feels that solar power is non-negotiable, then I guess she will have to relocate to a more suitable location.

        SThomesteader, it isn’t up to you to fix her problem. Don’t get drawn into it. This is one of those times where it becomes all business between neighbors.

        This is my two cents fwiw – You are in the situation. 

        Whatever happens, keep your emotions out of it. I am telling you this because I have the neighbor from hell and I could have saved a lot of grief had I handled things differently in the beginning. 

        Good luck.

      • 5

        Agree with everything you said. 

    • 8

      Neighbors can come and go.  Trees can take a lifetime to get large & majestic.

      I vote for trees.

    • 5

      I edited the title to hopefully make the point of the post clearer for other people. You’re welcome to edit it more.

    • 8

      I’d keep the trees. Trying to find civil compromises with neighbors is admirable and I wish more people had the mentality to respectfully talk and accommodate each other — as opposed to bickering, HOA flexing, etc. — but you’ve thoughtfully considered it (good job!) and it’s totally fine for you to say “we’d like to help, but we value those trees too much, sorry.” 

      Especially since I’d guess they have other ways to get solar on the property without you removing your trees. If they want solar, they’ll find a way.

      • 4

        Well, yeah. Basically she told me that the solar company told her that she wouldn’t get any use out of the panels unless those trees went. She sent me the picture they gave her with all the trees outlined and it was every single freaking tree on our property that separates our two properties. Her backyard is all woods too. We were told the same thing by a solar company when we looked into it. It can’t happen on any grand scale unless all the trees are cut down. 

    • 6

      1 politely decline saying they are your reserve firewood supply, a privacy barrier and a wildlife haven. 2 suggest she looks at micro wind turbines / VAWT s instead or mount PV panel on elivated frames.

      • 3

        If she brings it up again I will suggest that. And everything you said, yes, exactly all of that. 

    • 5

      Hi neighbor, all well there? You need anything from the store, we’re going to town now. Ah, and by the way, can you cut your trees down because we want to install solar. In a text… I personally find it rude to ask something like that in a text. There is a pandemic and you have to keep distance but one can still communicate in a civilized manner from a safe distance. There must be another sunny spot on their property to install solar, it will be even cheaper and easier than on their roof. 

      • 3

        Exactly this. The whole thing was so weird and unlike her which is why I was so…put off. And yes, there is, their front yard but I suppose that wouldn’t exactly look awesome. 

    • 5

      We had a similar issue but the trees weren’t providing privacy between us or the street.  Our neighbors had very tall pines that not only blocked light to our house but also killed a tree that had lost the fight for light in our yard (miss those grapefruits) and were leaning over their home to the extent that they slept on the other side during storms (really!).  The pines got bark beetle and we negotiated to split the cost of removal to prevent infestation of our remaining trees which also cleared our skies for solar.  In the end, we paid for most of it but our trees never got bark beetle, we have full light on our panels and don’t feel awkward talking with our neighbors who we know are cost averse to the point of risking a tree fall onto their house. 

      To answer your question – I think I’d trade some amount of privacy for solar especially if your area will permit you to use it with batteries to offset peak use time and help during emergencies.  That is a great prep that pays for itself eventually.  We don’t have that option quite yet – power must be out for battery use.  

       I’d say that solar company is not thinking outside the box much and agree that if she (or you) really want solar for all the other benefits besides power outages she can do other options for location.  If she has enough property to call it forested then she could pull down her own trees and erect panels out there – standalone or on a pergola or similar structure.  The easy thing is to put it on a roof, but it’s not the only option.  

      A different perspective:  In California at least, I believe light access is getting put into law/code for new installations which would prevent blocking light to an adjacent property/structure – like the very tall Italian cypress trees.  So once they’re down, they may not be able to go back in.  If you aren’t comfortable removing them, then don’t do it. When you tell her, you can share that you didn’t get solar yourself for the same reason – you wanted to keep the trees.  

    • 7

      Simply say that the trees are an important feature of YOUR property. Don’t get in to a prolonged discussion.  That is far more polite than the response that came to mind first 😉

    • 6

      fun discussion.  i now have solar, but didn’t for a long time as was originally told by the consultant that, using their small domed meter, there were too many trees on the neighbors lot next door for especially winter time solar.  but now we have it and working great. however, i continue to be concerned about not getting 100% of the sun.  so my question is: do we have a right to the sun? (view) probably not because builders put up skyscrapers that block other peoples view and sun, etc.  but i also have privacy trees, bushes, fence, that i highly value, so i stand on both sides of the fence, as it were.  it certainly would be an interesting case to try in court………

      • 5


        What I am about to tell you would have to be checked with your local laws/by-laws.

        Where I live in Canada, we own the air space of our property (not to the Moon, there’s a limit :), but we own in three dimension space, not just the flat lot.

        For example, if a neighbor’s tree branches grow into our yard or close to our roofs, we can legally trim those branches back to the property line. Anything that extends in our property can be clipped back. This is so we don’t smack our faces into tree branches when mowing the lawn or have trees growing over and onto our roofs and damaging them.

        Sometimes, there are laws in certain communities that do stop someone from box your property in and blocking the sun. It depends on the laws where you live. Most lawyers will do a free of charge fast answer and it could be worth knowing for sure what your laws are.