Neighbors potential problem tree

cearabMarch 14, 2008

We've had high winds and lots of rain lately, and are expecting more. Trees, large ones, have come down all over the area. A friend had one come down in her yard on Saturday, which fortunately missed their house.

I was outside speaking with my next door neighbor and we were discussing a very large tree with 3 very tall trunks that come right out of the base of the tree. Parts of this tree look very dead. The tree is on the property of the neighbor directly behind my next door neighbor. The tree is on the corner of the property, right up to my property line. The property has always been a rental, so neither of us knows who the owner of the house is. Anyway, because of the way this tree grows, if it were to come down, it looks like parts would go onto my next door neighbors home, and the left section is tall enough to hit the back side of my house. It would also likely take out a shed I have at that back corner of the property. It also would probably take out parts of my fence.

I have never had any property damage from this tree, but a few large branches have fallen off over the years into the yard, and just fell onto the lawn. But my neighbor is concerned the tree is looking bad, and is also worried given the number of healthy looking trees that came down recently with all the wet weather we have been having.

My question is, who pays if this tree comes down on my property or home? Would I first contact my insurance company, who in turn would send pursue the matter with the other homeowners insurance company? What happens if the tree does not damage the house and just falls into the yard? Who pays then? Am I supposed to bear the cost of hiring someone to cut up and remove the tree in that case? In 13 years of owning this home, I have never had a single claim, (knock wood). So, I'm not quite sure how this process works. Any advice/experience would be helpful.

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if the tree looks damaged/sick/diseased/rotted now, you need to send a registered letter to teh owner of the property informing him of it. otherwise he is not liable for a penny. if it falls the property owner(s) where it lands are responsible for all cleanup/repairs. but if you inform them of the potential hazzard, you MAY be able to take him to court should it cause damage to your property.

now, if you send him a letter and he has someone come check the tree and they deem it not a hazzard, then the responsibility falls back on you and your HOI.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 12:03PM
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You are allowed to cut any branches that overhang your property as long as the trimming does not further impact the health of the tree. I'm not sure you can force the neighbor to cut back the branches that hang over another home's property.

If branches should fall and cause damage to your property it would be your responsibility to clean up the debris. And depending on your HOI and wind/storm damage clauses (check the fine print) they may or may not pay for actual damage to your home or property.
I would call your insurance company for clarifaction.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 2:33PM
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Almost every states laws are a little differant.You do need to send the owner a registered letter. You can find the owner at the county clerks office. May have to do the search yourself. Takes pictures, lots of pictures of the tree as it relates from tree to your house and fence,before anything happens and after it happens too.
Google your states property laws.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 9:44PM
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Can you contact the company that manages the property and handles renting it? They may take care of it without you needing to know who the owner is.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 10:10PM
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"...question is, who pays if this tree comes down on my property or home?"

Generally speaking (meaning, in most places) if a tree is visibly diseased or damaged, the owner or insurance company of the property where the tree trunk is would pay for the damage.

Take numerous pictures of the tree. Find out who the owner of the house is and send him a letter (registered/return receipt) telling him about your concerns. Include photos. Even if you don't hear from him you may cut the limbs overhanging your property if it will not undermine or kill the tree.

You need to check with your insurance company about whether they cover removal of debris/branches if no structure is damaged. Policies vary.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 11:53PM
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Be glad this is not your neighbor.

Here is a link that might be useful: Look Here.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 7:51PM
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To document that the tree is diseased, it might also be advisable to get a tree expert to examine it and say in writing that he or she did so on this date and found that its condition was such and such.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2008 at 6:26PM
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We had an almost similar problem. The diffrences were that the tree was healthy, and the tree was on our lot. When it fell in a wind storm it took out part of the neighbors shed. We were responsible for the damages. So I would suggest along with making contact with your neighbor before something happens you might want to call your insurance company about this situation also.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 7:45AM
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We had a tree situation here. We had a very large, old Pin Oak in the back corner of our lot. That is, until hurricane Isabell hit. We woke up in the morning to see the Pin Oak was now stretched diagonally along our fence line with the majority of the tree in the back fence neighbor's yard. It had been uprooted during the night and we never heard it fall. We were fortunate in that the tree had fallen diagonally instead of any other direction. Had it fallen straight back, would have wiped out the house behind ours, slightly to the right, would have damaged the house next to the back fence neighbor. Straight back would have damaged the back side of our house and to the left our other neighbor's house.

Checked with the county and our insurance company and both said all we had to worry about was the part that was on our property. This came under "The Act Of God" clause. The tree was healthy but due to the extremely high water table, roots were very shallow.

The neighbor did try to have us remove the larger portion from their yard, but the insurance company told them so sorry, not their (us) problem. Shortly thereafter that neighbor sold the house and the new owner wanted to know what we were going to do about that tree. He was sure we were responsible for having it removed and wouldn't take our word that we had all ready been through this with the previous owner. It occurred to me later, why didn't he make the removal of the tree part of the condition of the sale?

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 9:40AM
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Have you tried talking with your neighbor? Nothing accusationsal, just a conversation expressing your concerns. Not everyone is terribly unreasonable.

Growing up I distinctly recall a neighbor once commenting to my father about needing to get gutter gaurds because he was "getting too old" to climb up on a ladder to clean the pods out of his gutters all the time (black walnut tree).

The next day my father then took it upon himself to simply cut that tree down. As much as he liked that tree, he said that Jack was a great neighbor to have and he didn't want to alienate him.

Not that I would expect your neighbor to start cutting down his trees, but a frank discussion with him might motivate him to at least get the tree trimmed.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 2:50PM
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Do you live in a city? In my city you can call and have the city arborist come out and look to see if he thinks the tree is dying or is in danger of falling or breaking apart. If it is, the city will force the owner to take the tree down within a set amount of time. If they don't, the city will pay a contractor to remove the tree, and then charge the homeowner.

One thing I learned (the arborist is my boss) if you see a "V" where the limbs branch off of the tree, that is good. If the limbs form more of a "U" off the trunk, that is bad. U shapes mean water can collect there and will eventually rot the wood.

Having just dealt with a tree hitting my house, it is amazing the amount of damage they can do. In my case, the tree broke apart, on a calm, windless morning. You just never know.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2008 at 7:55PM
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