If a Tree Falls, Who is Responsible for Its Removal?

tree-falls-in-yardStorms and derechos can wreak havoc through neighborhoods, downing power lines and toppling trees. Trees can also topple over on their own at times. Perhaps the soil is too drenched to support the weight, or the tree has died and large limbs break off.

If you live in a neighborhood, you need to know who is responsible for removing the tree once it has fallen.

In most cases, unless the neighbor on whose property the tree exists, had knowledge that the tree was unsafe, they are not responsible for removal of a downed tree. You are. Even if it hurt you or your family, or damaged your property.

Where conflict arises is in providing proof that 1) the neighbor knew that the tree was unsafe, and 2) was negligent in taking care of it.

One way to tell if a tree is unsafe is to check its condition. Is it decayed or rotted? Has it had large areas of surgery in the past? Land owners have a duty to inspect their trees periodically, or have them examined by an expert if doubt arises.

To prove negligence, you would have to file a legal suit against the tree owner, and since most cases aren’t clear cut, it may be difficult. You will need research and expert testimony for proof, and perhaps a trial to determine the outcome.  However, many land owners simply claim that it was an “Act of God” that toppled their tree.

If a tree falls on a public property or roadway, a land owner is generally not responsible for its clean up. The local government will take care of it.

We are in no way providing legal advice in this post. We do advise homeowners, however, to check their homeowner’s insurance policy for details. It should outline your position and what steps to take in case of a claim, and enumerate your deductible. If no damage occurred from the tree fall, insurance generally will not cover cleanup costs. You will have to pay this out of pocket.

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