Whose Tree is it Anyways?

Tree Damage and Neighbor Disputes

Have you ever looked out a side window of your home and noticed a large, looming tree? Have you ever wondered what would happen if the wind blew the right speed and direction to tear one of those limbs off and crashing down on your home? This is a particularly important question to consider especially in neighborhoods with less ‘elbow room’ between the house and the property line.

If you’re at home, take a quick look or look when you get home tonight. You might have neighbors on both sides and they might have trees that are on their property but close enough to damage your home or your garage. Storms will happen! It’s very important to consider what will happen if those trees fall!

True or False: If the neighbor’s tree falls on my house (or garage), they will be responsible for the damage because it was their tree.

The answer: False! Well, in most situations the answer is false. You see, your neighbor is only responsible for damage that they cause (i.e. negligence). So if they were cutting the tree down and it fell on your house, they would likely be responsible because of their negligence… But most of the time, that tree is going to fall because of wind, lightining, or weight of ice and snow. None of those things are the fault of your neighbor. In other words, absent any negligence, mother nature has a history of “gifting” trees to people all the time.

You probably didn’t want a new tree in your yard or crashing down on your house, though. I wouldn’t want one either especially considering that a sideways trees isn’t as nice to look at and usually doesn’t keep green leaves on it for long. The fact still remains. And the damage caused is something worth preparing to face. You see, the perils that caused the neighbor’s tree to magically transfer property ownership over to you is usually a covered cause of loss on your homeowners insurance. Your policy will pay to remove the tree from your home and repair the damage caused. If it was bad enough, the policy might also pay for your to say somewhere else during the repairs. Some policies even include some coverage to remove the part of the tree that isn’t on the home! Remember, you’ll face your full policy deductible and possibly many weeks of inconvenience as contractors work to get you back to normal…

Not sure you want that neighbor’s tree? If you are concerned that a tree close to your home might be rotting, you can send a certified letter explaining that you’re concerned. Just putting them on notice might be enough to transfer the liability back to your neighbor. If you are concerned about the integrity of the tree, look closely at it and encourage them to remove the tree or seek an assessment from an arborist. If they don’t and it falls, that could be negligence!

These types of concerns are complicated! Please reach out to your agent and discuss your coverage and get guidance before something bad happens.

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