Note: This week’s Parasha (Shofetim) includes the prohibition of cutting down a fruit-bearing tree (Deut. 20:19). The following Q&A from this past winter relates to this subject.
Dear Rabbi Simon,
Our sycamore tree blew down in a recent storm causing significant damage to our neighbour’s patio. If our pear tree were to fall down in another storm it would probably fall on the house itself. We want to remove it as a preventative measure although it was not damaged this storm. How do I make the tree surgeon the owner of that tree? Is it enough to do so verbally or does there need to be something in writing?
Does the pear tree produce edible fruit? Either way, under the circumstances it would seem to be permissible to relocate it or even cut it down, as it threatens your (or your neighbour’s) property. I would suggest selling it to your tree specialist and employing him to remove it. This must be an actual sale, with money changing hands. Some say a written contract is necessary too. If this is a practical question requiring halakhic guidance let me know about additional details.
If it is feasible to re-plant it, some would favour that option, however IMO it is not necessary to do so in the present instance.
Rabbi Rashi Simon