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Having a tree fall on (or even near) your house is really scary. Even if no one gets hurt, it’s still disruptive. There could be damage to your house or car. If that’s the case, you’ll need to get insurance companies involved. And then there’s the issue of removing the downed tree.
What if the tree wasn’t on your property? Or what if it was on your property but fell on your neighbor’s house? These scenarios are where responsibility gets murky quickly.
We’re here to clear things up!
In this article, you’ll learn:
- Signs that a tree is dying
- What to do after a tree falls
- The keys to responsible tree ownership
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Who Pays for Tree Removal?
In most cases, responsibility for tree removal and damage repair hinges on a couple of details:
- Whose property the tree was on
- Who knew the tree was dead
Did the tree have visible decay? Had the tree failed to leaf out in the spring? If so, it was dead or dying and a fall risk.
Here are some other signs of a sick or dead tree:
- Missing bark
- Fungus or mushroom growth
- Holes from insects
If you aren’t sure whether a tree is healthy, reach out to a tree service company for help. Most tree companies have arborists on staff who can help. Arborists are tree experts. They know what to look for and can tell you whether your tree can be saved.
Once you find out a tree is at risk of falling, have it removed. If you don’t take action, you could be financially responsible for the damage it causes when it falls.
My neighbor has a dead tree, and it’s close to my property line. What should I do?
First, talk to your neighbor. They might not know about the dead tree. Ask your neighbor if they’ll have the tree removed. If you can, offer to split the cost of the tree work.
If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to document your concern. Write your neighbor a letter explaining the situation, and ask them to have the tree taken down. Also include that you will have to take legal action if the tree falls on your property and causes damage.
Mail the letter certified with a return receipt. This step ensures that you have documentation of your neighbor receiving the letter. Also send a copy of the letter to your homeowners’ insurance company, and keep a copy for your records, too.
My neighbor’s tree fell on my house! What do I do?
If you can do so safely, take a look at the tree. Is it visibly decayed? Had you been worried about it in the past? Inspect the fallen tree for signs of decay.
If the tree was dead before it fell and your neighbor knew about it, you might have grounds for a lawsuit. But it’s really hard to prove negligence without documentation. You’d probably end up fighting an uphill (and very expensive) battle.
If the tree wasn’t dead or diseased, there’s really not much else to do but move forward with cleanup. In these cases, you’re responsible for the damage on your property. Removing the parts of the tree on your property is also up to you. You can file a homeowners’ insurance claim or pay out of pocket.
A tree in my yard fell on my neighbor’s house. What happens now?
First, here’s the big question: Did you know the tree was dead or a fall risk?
If you were aware of the problem but didn’t have the tree taken down, your neighbor could have a legal case against you.
If you didn’t know the tree was at risk or if the tree came down in a strong storm, you aren’t at fault. You’re only financially responsible for the damage to your property and the part of the tree in your yard. Your neighbor is responsible for anything on their property.
If you’re on good terms with your neighbor, talk to them about splitting the cost for a tree company to remove all the tree debris at one time. That might save you both some money, but it isn’t legally required.
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Responsible Tree Ownership
Trees are beautiful and have an important role in the health of our planet. But a neglected or sick tree is a ticking time bomb. Tree damage on or to your property is your financial responsibility in most cases.
Here are the keys to responsible tree ownership:
- Keep a close eye on the mature trees in your yard. If they start to lean or show signs of disease, have an arborist take a look.
- Have your trees trimmed regularly. In most cases, every three to five years is enough. If you see precarious limbs, however, call a tree services company ASAP.
- Speak up if a neighbor’s tree poses a threat to your house. They might not know about it and will hopefully appreciate the heads up.
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