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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2013

    Post Bamboo Root Invasion from Neighbor's Yard

    My question involves real estate located in the State of: California

    We recently discovered bamboo roots (rhizomes) in our yard growing under the fence separating our yard from the neighbor’s. The neighbor’s is a rental. Our concern is that the bamboo rhizomes will destroy our septic tank system by clogging up the leach field lines.

    We contacted the neighbor's landlord and he cut down the bamboo. He told us he plans to paint the bamboo root ends with bleach to kill them.

    We (not the neighbor's landlord) paid $65 for a consultation from a landscaper. The landscaper said the type of bamboo is called “Golden” and the rhizomes usually do not go deeper than 36 inches. He will be sending us an estimate to dig up and remove the bamboo rhizomes from our yard. We also plan to have him dig a trench along the fence and put in a barrier to prevent any rhizomes from growing under the fence in the future. We do not have confidence that the landlord will kill the bamboo growing in his yard.

    We invited the neighbor's landlord to pay for the removal of the rhizomes from our yard. He declined, saying the bamboo had spread to his yard from another neighbor’s yard living behind his property, so he is not responsible for the rhizomes that are growing under our common fence into our yard.

    We are considering taking him to small claims court to recover the cost of the removal of rhizomes from our yard and the creation of the barrier along the fence to prevent future rhizome invasions from his property into ours.

    We are also considering just paying for the job ourselves because we prefer to maintain a good friendly relationship with him and his tenants. We also have a female cat that goes into the rental’s yard. We do not want any harm to come to her.

    We feel like we are being bamboozled.

    Thank you for your suggestions and advice.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2011

    Default Re: Bamboo Root Invasion from Neighbor's Yard

    You have no case to sue for prevention of something you theorize may happen.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2007

    Default Re: Bamboo Root Invasion from Neighbor's Yard

    Fick v. Nilson is one of the more important California cases.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    El Dorado County, CA

    Default Re: Bamboo Root Invasion from Neighbor's Yard

    I'm not so sure that Fick is on point. In that case, Fick was cutting trees from Nilson's land. Although Fick had permission from Nilson's predecessor, apparently Nilson had been unawayre of that arrangement and placed some value on the trees.

    In this case, both Bamboozle and his neighbor consider the bamboo to be a pest plant, a weed. Bamboozle wants it gone, or at least definitively stopped at the property line. The neighbor has taken or is taking the steps of cutting down all of the bamboo and then treating the remaining bases (stumps? rootwads?) in an attempt to kill off the remaining roots.

    If the roots continue to grow, they will damage Bamboozle's septic field. But Bamboozle does not report any damage to date and describes both the neighbor's actions and his/her proposed actions as being preventative against likely, and eventual certain damage should the bamboo continue to grow. If the roots die, they will decompose and become part of the soil, presenting no continued threat to the septic field.

    The problem with bamboo is that in friendly climates, it grows like a weed. Weeds tend to show up where they are not wanted, and even in places where steps have been taken to prevent their appearance. The only way to keep them in check is with ongoing vigilance and regularly applied measures to remove existing plants and prevent new ones from gaining a foothold. Most people treat weeds with a combination of cutting, pulling, and chemical treatment. With many types of unwanted plant growth, a few shots of Roundup is sufficient. Your neighbor has gone beyond that by doing the work to cut and remove all above surface plant material, and then chemically treating the roots.

    He has both expressed and shown that he does not want the plants in his yard anymore than you want them in yours. You have proposed measures that go well beyond what most homeowners would do to ensure that a potential problem does not become a real one. Your neighbor has also stated that the bamboo invaded his yard from another nearby yard. It is a problem for him as well.

    The problem that I see with your ability to making a successful claim against your neighbor is that very few homeowners would, or are able to justify the expense of excavating their yard to a depth of 36" and placing what essentially amounts to a solid moat around their property. IMO, a judge is likely to see the problem of invasive bamboo as not simply one between two neighbors, but one potentially affecting several local homeowners in this specific instance, and portions of most communities in which bamboo is prevalent. The judge may be sympathetic to your battle with this weed, but is very likely to see your neighbor's efforts to eradicate it within his area of control as being reasonable, and equally likely to see your proposals as being extraordinary. The law only expects one to exercise reasonable care in such circumstances.

    Even with the measures you propose, there is no guarantee that the bamboo in the neighborhood won't eventually find a way into your yard. The difficulty in fighting this plant is greater, and the extent of econimic damage its invasion can do is greater, but what you are proposing is little different than suing your neighbor because he has crabgrass in his yard and it may spread to yours and choke out your flower beds.

    If your neighbor were cultivating the bamboo and not cooperating at all, and had the invasive roots actually caused measurable damage to your property, you would probably have a good chance of prevailing in an action ordering him to contain or remove the plants (cut and chemically treat), and possibly to reimburse you for the actual damage suffered.

    My advice is that you should be thankful that you have a neighbor who would respond by trying to prevent the further spread of the bamboo with reasonable measures to remove and kill all of it on his property. It's amazing how many people don't have neighbors who are that reasonable, and who would either let the problem go unchecked, or who may even take action to escalate a conflict.

    From what you've written, this neighbor seems like one who has made an attempt to be a good and responsible (and responsive) neighbor. IMO, you should be one as well by thanking him for his efforts and taking on any efforts which go above and beyond what is reasonable yourself. If you are that concerned about the bamboo, realize that as long as it's in the neighborhood, your property is not going to be at risk of it finding a way in. Perhaps a more effective measure might be to organize the affected neighbors to eradicate it together by more conventional means (cutting and chem-treating the rootballs).

    I wish you well in staving off or eradicating the bamboo, but more importantly, in maintaining and perhaps building neighborly relationships.
    I'm a surveyor, not your surveyor & not an attorney.
    Advice is general survey, not legal. Hire a local professional for specific advice.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2007

    Default Re: Bamboo Root Invasion from Neighbor's Yard

    I'll stick with Fick until I see a better case.

    From Fick in a nutshell:

    "It is well established that an adjoining landowner who is injured by limbs and roots of trees on another's property may cut off the offending parts, or may sue for damages and to abate the nuisance"

    The case examines the issue broadly and neatly sums up previous California legal precedents.

    We are considering taking him to small claims court to recover the cost of the removal of rhizomes from our yard and the creation of the barrier along the fence to prevent future rhizome invasions from his property into ours.
    If so, I would recommend Fick as the starting point. In Nolo it is the first case cited regarding invasive root cases in California.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2013

    Default Re: Bamboo Root Invasion from Neighbor's Yard

    eapls2780, thank you for your detailed thoughtful response. Thanks also for your advice about the importance of maintaining and building neighborly relationships and your good wishes for success. As you have suggested, I have contacted other affected neighbors to organize our efforts to eradicate the bamboo.

    I will continue to comment on this thread so that others may benefit from our experience.

    I have contacted a bamboo expert via e-mail. Here is his response:

    "I think the first thing to do would be to dig a trench along the property line which will cut off the plants on your side from the mother plant. Then install a HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) barrier at least 24" to prevent new rhizomes from showing up. In addition, you want to pull out any rhizomes that are visible on your side of the property and cut off any culms that are visible. Small new culms will still probably shoot up during spring and at that point you can kick them over to prevent the new plants form getting established. You could also dig down, wherever a new culm appears and pull out the rhizomes. It usually takes a while to get it all, but it is a battle you can win if you just don't let the plants get well established again. Good luck and feel free to ask if you have more questions."

    - - - Updated - - -

    LandSurveyor, thank you for your replies. I read through Fick a couple of times in order to absorb its meaning. I did understand from reading Fick that an adjoining landowner who is injured by roots on another's property may sue for damages. Yes, Fick seems like a good starting point.

    We will do our best to defeat the bamboo problem working with our neighbors before we take our case to small claims court.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2013

    Default Re: Bamboo Root Invasion from Neighbor's Yard


    I am not here as a legal consultant, but I read your plight and thought I may offer you some assistance in this matter in the light of the bamboo itself.
    I simply wish to lead you to this site: for information on all types of Bamboo and how to control, grow or erradicate them.
    Golden Bamboo is very hardy and it is a RUNNING type which means that its rhizomes grow far and fast. The advice you were given by the bamboo expert is correct and
    the sooner you install that barrier, the better. The longer you delay this, the more difficult the erradication will be because Bamboo is a very fast growing plant.

    I would like to add that I don't think that these plants would bother your septic system as the roots should not develop that deep. Most all bamboo species have shallow root / rhizome growth. Your septic leach field is probably out of reach - but I say this with a bit of caution as I am not certain how deep your leach field is nor am I an expert on the growth of Golden Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea). Whether the Bamboo would enter your leach field and cause damage is only one concern, the other concern is that it is simply invasive and would take over your entire property if not held in check. It won't cost you very much to limit their growth at this time, but if you let them continue to grow, you may have a big expensive mess in the future.

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