Is It OK To Take Avocados And Other Fruits From Your Neighbor's Tree? LA's Favorite Question, Revisited
Can you pick the fruit off your neighbor's tree if the branch is hanging over your property? Is it more offensive when it's avocados?
Apparently, it depends on who you ask.
When our chief content officer posed this question on her own Twitter account, we thought it would be fun to pose the question to you, dear reader -- and in the process, help our colleague decide whether to pick the avocados or not.
Here's some context:
There are literally avocados flowing in the streets of South Pasadena. The neighbors have dogs, who bark when I get close. And no, I'm not above eating a stray street avocado— Kristen Muller (@KrisMul) November 21, 2019
It didn't take long for locals to chime in.
Take a few. But only if the tree is abundant— Daniel Heimpel (@dheimpel) November 22, 2019
And it's not really taking. The tree is gifting the world its fruit. It might be impolite to refuse.— Sharon McNary (@KPCCsharon) November 22, 2019
As the owner of an avocado tree, it’s ok if you ask and we say ok. But don’t be surprised if we say no because some years, there are not many for us. If it falls on the outside of the fence, it’s yours— Ana Jones (@solorjones) November 22, 2019
Why not just ask the neighbor? Our neighbor very kindly told me I can take lemons from his tree if I want to.— Marte (@infmom) November 22, 2019
If I may weigh in, having experience in this; barring a separate agreement with your neighbor, anything on branches that extend into your property's airspace is yours, everything else is theirs.— Bruce Rheins (@BruceRheins) November 21, 2019
Literally all they need to do is ask. My neighbors steal my oranges all the time, and I get so annoyed. If they would ask me, I would agree.— Lindsay (@yaygirlmeister) November 22, 2019
Avacado is pushing it...limes & lemons definitely ok to take 🍋🥑— MacKenzie Reynolds (@MacKenzzerr) November 22, 2019
Just with a lawyer friend. If it has fallen from the tree into your yard or public space you can take it. Anything else is stealing.— BRITS IN THE WOOD (@BritsInTheWood) November 22, 2019
The official rule is: hanging over the property line onto the street/sidewalk/your property, it’s all good to pick and take. You may not reach over someone’s property line to pick or take. Das it. Meet your neighbors & develop communities!— Jon Shoer (@jonnyshoer) November 22, 2019
BUT WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY?
Despite the influx of hot takes, the question remains: is it legal to pick fruit from your neighbor's tree?
The general consensus is that if the tree is on public land, the fruit is yours to take, unless you see signage indicating otherwise. If a fruit-bearing branch crosses onto your property, it becomes more of a gray area.
"There's no written law about who owns the fruit that's hanging into public space, but there is a common law about neighbors," Austin Young told KPCC in 2013. Young founded Fallen Fruit, a local art collective which also maps the location of public fruit trees in L.A. and elsewhere. "If fruit hangs over from your neighbor's tree into your yard, then that fruit is technically yours, or you can cut those branches out."
Community Law Center, a Maryland-based nonprofit, reasons that in California, it is legally acceptable to take fruit from your neighbor's tree if the tree branches extend over your property line.
FindLaw, a website that aims to "make the law accessible and understandable for everyone," tackles this question by making note of what California defines as grand theft. According to Penal Code 487, it's when "domestic fowls, avocados, olives, citrus or deciduous fruits, other fruits, vegetables, nuts, artichokes, or other farm crops are taken of a value exceeding $250." But, like, don't steal your neighbor's fruits -- especially $250 worth of it.
But the overarching advice we've seen over and over is that perhaps the quickest, easiest way to answer this question is to simply ask your neighbor. Who knows, you might even end up making a new friend.