who's responsible?

luanneNovember 14, 2001

If a neighbor's tree falls on your property, who is responsible for the removal? And if there was damage done to your house (let's say the tree fell on YOUR roof!), who is liable? A friend once told me the person whose property it fell on is the responsible party (or at least, his homeowner insurance is). Now is this true? Frankly, it doesn't make sense to me.

I'm asking because I have a neighbor who has this tree situated at the FAR end of his property and whose branches are hanging over our roof. My husband said if this tree ever got struck by lightning, (our area has severe thunderstorms in the summer, btw) it will fall right on our roof. Is there anything that can be done about this? I know it's rather expensive to have a tree cut down so I know our neighbor won't do anything about it. I was thinking of poisoning the tree...*grins*

Any suggestions? OH and mainly I want to know who is responsible if this tree ever fell on my property. TIA

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You would be allowed to cut the branches that hang over your property line if you choose to do so. Essentially what you have been told is correct, there are exceptions, if a tree is not maintained by the owner, and he has been given notice of the potential danger, then he could be responsible for any damages.

Example, a dead tree or a tree with many dead branches is definite a threat, and if the owner does not remedy the situation he is responsible if the tree damages another person's property.

If I were you, I would talk to my neighbor, tell him of my fear of the tree falling on my house, ask him to either have the tree pruned back to his property line, or to allow you to trim it back. This would keep things more neighborly if he would agree to either alternative. But if you are worried, go ahead and cut the branches that are over the property line.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2001 at 4:12PM
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I had a slightly different situation - I live in a very hilly area. My home is on the "down" side of the street. The owner of the then vacant lot across the street cleared ALL vegetation on his lot.
A heavy rain came and the street, as well as my front yard and other neighbors were covered with mud. The city came and cleaned everything. This was done at the expense of the across the street lot owner.
I then had my attorney write a letter to the lot owner across the street putting him on notice that he would be responsible for any future damage to my property and home.
He then sold and the new owner corrected all problems.
If you are on good terms with the neighbor talk to him and tell him you or your attorney are gong to write him a letter
-registered - just for your own protection. If not on good terms, just do it.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2001 at 12:45AM
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Bought a new house in July 1999. September 1999 my neighbors tree fell on my house due to Hurricane Floyd. Called my insurance company, they came out and paid us to have a new roof put on and have the tree cut down and removed. No questions about who is to blame. Never had to get my neighbor involved at all. P.S. He had another tree right next to that one and felt that it might also come down in the future, so he paid for that one to come down.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2001 at 5:03PM
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My husband, an attorney, looked into a similar matter for my inlaws. My inlaws' neighbors complained about the needles from the pine trees on my inlaws' property blowing into their pool and causing problems with their pool filter. They wanted my inlaws to pay for repairs to the pool equipment. (Nice try!)

My husband determined that they are responsible for proper landscape maintainence to prevent damage from falling trees, but not for the pine needles that blow on the wind.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2001 at 3:46AM
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Any branches that are on hanging over your property are yours to cut as you wish. Out of courtesy tell the neighbor you intend to remove the branches and you might explian why.

It was my understanding that if my tree falls into your yard, I pay or my insurance company.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2001 at 7:31PM
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And if all this is not confusing enough the neighbors tree may not be the neighbors tree. I once lived in a place where the neighbors tree belonged to the city.

And I called the city and they said that the large branch which had broken off in a snowstorm and was hanging over my drive was indeed their responsability but they would not do anything until their person decided it was a hazard.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2001 at 11:19AM
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Hi, my neighbors huge tree fell and the top of it crushed our fence and is now partially on our yard. The main part of the tree is still on their yard. Before the tree fell is was very healthy and a good distance from my yard. It came down after a rather violent storm. Could any one advise me as to who would be responsible for the part on my yard and my fence? Thanks for any help....

    Bookmark   June 11, 2002 at 3:37PM
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You and/or your homeowners insurance is responsible for the damage to your home and fence, and for the cleanup of your yard.

However, when I had this happen to my yard the neighbor had the people cleaning up their yard also clean up my yard. I would like to think they were just being neighborly, but to be truthful they just didn't know that they didn't have to have our yard cleaned up.

My insurance paid for the damage to my house.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2002 at 4:39PM
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If a neighbors tree falls on your home its YOUR insurance co that pays for it. UNLESS the neighbor KNOWS that the tree was dead and needed to be removed BEFORE it fell on your property. If that's the case then there is a liability issue. It's not fair is it?
I'm a licensed insurance agent by the way.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2002 at 4:29PM
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It's a good idea to review your homeowner's insurance policy with your agent to make sure you are adequately covered. If you hire someone to repair damages to your home and to remove the tree and this person is not a licensed contractor who has Worker's Comp and liability insurance, and this person is injured or killed during his work on your property, most home owner's policies will not cover such catastrophes. It is important to know what your insurance policy covers. If the family sues, then you could lose everything. The National Home Builders Association recommends getting documentation of contractors' Workers Comp and liability insurance before hiring them.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2002 at 12:02AM
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Neighoring trees

Here is a link that might be useful: Frequently asked questions to help you deal with troublesome trees.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2002 at 12:45AM
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My neighbors tree is dead ,Its about over 3 feet in diameter as high as our 2 story house with an attic, the tree is about 20 feet higher than our house. I asked the neighbor what are they going to do about their tree. They don`t care and they don`t want to know anything. They want everything their way. What is the law to get it cut down before it falls on my house. I live in PA.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2008 at 1:20AM
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Until the tree sets a foot over your property, dead or alive, there's nothing you can do. It's their tree, on their property. It's like asking the police to arrest someone because you think they might commit a crime in future - you can't do that.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2008 at 5:29AM
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henry, get an attorney to send them notice that the tree is a hazzard. if they do nothing about it, then at least when it falls you cna hold them responsible.

you MAY be able to get the city to force them to remove it if it is truly dead. i would send the letter first, then follow up a few days later with the city if they refuse to take action.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2008 at 11:21AM
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This post is 7 years old. Im' sure it has been resolved by now.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2008 at 3:07PM
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joed, the reason folks have responded to a couple of really OLD posts is that people posted new questions in tehm that are from the OP.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2008 at 6:12PM
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If a moving company's large truck/trailer drives down a street that is designated safe for a truck, to deliver household goods to a residence, and a tree is hanging over the road, and it breaks branches off. No one saw it actually happen - they're assuming it was the moving van. Who is responsible?

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 4:04PM
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Question: "If a moving company's large truck/trailer drives down a street that is designated safe for a truck, to deliver household goods to a residence, and a tree is hanging over the road, and it breaks branches off. No one saw it actually happen - they're assuming it was the moving van. Who is responsible?"

ANSWER: Assuming that the truck does not exceed the maximum 13'6" height, the municipality is responsible.

I once drove an 18wheeler down a residential street and unknowingly knocked down two tree limbs, 21 residential telephone lines and 11 cable TV lines.

When I discovered the damage I called the police thinking that some of the lines might have been electric lines and needed immediate attention. You can imagine how nervous I was when the cop pulled up. I just knew I was gonna be charged with the damage and end up paying a fortune in fines and property damage. To make matters even worse, one of the phone lines that I had knocked down was a primary emergency phone line for the neighborhood fire station.

The cop pulled up, got out of his car and walked over and looked at my trailer. He said, "your trailer is clearly marked for 13'6" clearance, but are you sure that is correct when the trailer is hitched to your tractor?"

I told him I was not certain, but I assumed it was correct.

By this time a couple firemen had come over to talk to the cop and heard the discussion. One of them said, thats easy enough to figure out, and they had a small ladder brought over, then one guy climbed the ladder with a tape measure and measured my trailer height. He then called down to the cop and said, it is not 13'6", it's only 13'4-1/2".

The cop then says to me..."Looks line your okay, do you have any damage to your truck?"

I had a few scratches on the trailer, but nothing that was worth making a big deal over so I told the cop, no, I am ok, but what about those wires and tree limbs?

Cop says, "No problem, the law says that all public thoroughfares must have a 14' assured clearance unless there are signs clearly posting a low clearance such as an overpass. Whoever owns the roadway is responsible for maintaining the assured clearance, and the codes say that all electric, phone or cable wires must be a minimum of 15' over a public right of way and 10' over a private driveway, so if you have no damage to report, your good to go."

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 11:59PM
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lazypup - thanks for the response! We did speak to our company attorney yesterday and he said that if we broke no laws (if it was indeed our truck that did this), the overhanging tree branches that are broke off are not our problem. The woman that called us and claimed we were responsible - even though no one saw it - said she was an attorney. I wonder if that was just a ruse.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 11:33AM
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Well, she may be correct, by your own admission it was perhaps your truck that caused the damage to the tree,

Now let us examine the evidence from your side of the table.
1. The truck is of legal dimension and properly licensed to be operated on a public thoroughfare.
2. The truck was operated in a normal manner by a licensed operator.
3. The limb from her tree projected a hazard into the assured clearance space over a public thoroughfare.

Not only are you not responsible, when all is said and done, you have a good cause of action against her for damage to your truck such as bent, broken or torn sheet metal, broken clearance lights or scratches in your paint and she don't even want to know what it costs to paint a 45' trailer.

Now let us take this discussion to the next step. If she really was an attorney as she claims, she would know full well that she has no cause of action against you and is only attempting to extort a settlement by means of a bluff. That is a breach of ethics and could cause her to be brought up before the Bar Assoc.

On the other hand, if she is only attempting to extort a settlement from you by bluffing and saying she is an attorney, that is another matter entirely. Attorneys are licensed, sworn officers of the court, as are police and law enforcement officers. Impersonating an attorney or member of law enforcement is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in most states.

Now if she really wants to play hardball, then it's on!

Personally I would find out if she is in fact an attorney.

If so, I would tell her point blank that I have discussed the issue with my attorney, and she has no case, but she is welcome to attempt an action in small claims court if she likes, but understand that I will be counter suing for broken lights and a new paint job on the trailer. ( I have yet to see a household trailer that doesn't have a few tree limb scratches in the paint....LOL)

If she is not an attorney, I would invite her to meet with me in the presence of a witness and entice her into telling me she is an attorney, then while she is still standing there I would haul out my cell phone and call the county prosecutors office and tell them I would like to report an individual who is impersonating a lawyer.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 1:42PM
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@lazypup: Oh yeah!! I like that! Thanks again!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2011 at 9:55AM
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