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Neighbor's tree falls on my fence - Who is responsible?
Last updated: 8 January 2021
Tree disputes are very common between neighbor’s especially when it comes to who pays when a tree falls.
If your neighbors tree falls on your fence due to a windstorm, you – not your neighbor – are responsible for both the tree removal (from your yard only) and fence repair costs. If your homeowners’ insurance covers the loss, file an insurance claim, and your insurer will pay for both.
If your neighbor’s tree falls on your fence due to neglect, your neighbor is responsible for the damage. Contact your neighbor and ask him to speak to his insurers about paying for the repair and tree removal costs.
What should I do when my neighbor’s tree falls on my fence?
Determining who pays for the damage caused by your neighbor’s tree crashing on your fence is the kind of stuff you don’t want to deal with. But knowing the right thing to do in such a situation is the difference between filing a successful insurance claim and an unsuccessful one.
Filing a homeowners insurance claim can be a tedious process, below are the steps to help guide you in filing an insurance claim.
- Resist any attempt to move or clear the damage unless it poses a hazard.
- Document the damage with several good quality pictures. If you believe the incident occurred due to tree neglect, take witness statements, and gather evidence to back up your suspicions.
- Contact your insurance company immediately and speak to a claims agent. Confirm if your homeowner’s policy covers your particular situation. File your claim and start the process.
- If your neighbor was cutting his tree and fell on your fence, record the damage, and speak to him. If he admits responsibility, get him to contact his insurer to pay for the damage.
- Have the insurance company send an adjuster to evaluate the damage and submit an estimate. Offer to share your pictures.
- Claims can take between 2 – 4 weeks to process, depending on the severity of the damage. Check on your claim’s progress with your insurance agent, ask for updates, and keep the pressure to help your claim move along more quickly.
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Do I pay, or does my neighbor?
Sometimes, the law may seem hard-nosed, but it’s your neighbors legal right to do nothing when his tree falls on your fence and breaks it. If you have coverage, your insurer will pay for the damage. If the tree was diseased or was in danger of falling over before it fell across your fence, then your neighbor pays.
If the wall is on a shared boundary, that means you and your neighbor share 50% responsibility for the fence. Your insurance will pay for 50% of the repair cost, and your neighbor will pay for the other 50%.
Can this be claimed on insurance?
Yes, it can. But it’s somewhat tricky because the extent of your claim depends on what your homeowners’ insurance policy covers and what it does not. Generally, most homeowners insurance covers your home “dwelling” as two separate entities; the house, which is the main cover, and “other structures,” which means detached garages, gazebos, sheds, barns, and of course, fences. Your homeowners’ insurance payout for damage to “other structures” covered in the policy is often limited to 10% of the home coverage.
Homeowners’ insurance differs according to the insurer. Some companies cover both the house and “other structures” as a single policy, while some insurers separate both. Some insurance companies will not even provide “other structures” coverage. If your homeowners’ insurance is the last type, then you can’t file a claim with your insurer if your neighbors’ tree falls and damages your fence. However, if you have other-structures coverage, you can file a claim with your insurer, who will cover the fence repair and tree removal costs.
Can I sue my neighbor if they do not pay?
You could sue your neighbor if he declines to pay for the damage caused by his tree falling on your fence if his actions were directly responsible. The liability in this situation shifts to your neighbor if you can prove that his negligence and refusal to maintain his tree properly caused it to fall – even if a windstorm brought down the tree in question.
If your neighbor refuses to pay for the damage and you sue, the court can apply a “Duty of Care” law against your neighbor and force him to pay. The law can be applied against tree owners who were made aware of their dying, diseased, and weak trees but did not take reasonable care to prevent the tree from causing significant damage.
Is it worth going through insurance for a broken fence?
Fixing a tree damaged fence is hardly an expense that most homeowners include in the monthly household budget. Depending on the extent of the damage, the average national cost of replacing broken fencing is $538, and repair bills can get as high as $804. Having insurance coverage reduces the financial impact and ensures your fence is quickly restored regardless of your financial situation.
What if my neighbor’s tree falls on my house?
When neighbors tree falls, it is usually a direct result of one or a combination of the following factors; heavy storm, disease, neglect, tree cutting, and on rare occasions, lightning. A tree on your property that falls on your house poses few legal issues. However, your neighbor’s tree falling on your home causing significant damage opens up a huge legal can of worms on who assumes liability.
Your Property, Your Liability.
If your neighbor’s tree crashes into your house due to natural causes (windstorm, lightning, hurricane e.t.c), the condition of the tree before it falls will determine who is liable for the damage to your property.
If the tree was certified to be healthy and in good condition before being blown over, then your insurer takes care of the damage. File a claim with your insurer. Homeowners’ insurance policy usually covers house damage from wind storms and other natural causes, and depending on your coverage limits, your insurer will handle all damages.
Your Neighbors Negligence, His Liability.
Your neighbor is liable for the damage caused to your home if you can prove that he knew the tree structure was weak from disease and had become unstable before it crashed into your home. Also, if he had tried to cut down the tree without hiring a qualified professional to perform the job, and the tree fell on your property, he assumes liability.
It helps your case if you have a document from a certified arborist, city/county official, or concerned person informing your neighbor about the poor state of the tree before it fell on your house. In these circumstances, the liability shifts to your neighbor because his negligence was directly responsible for the tree falling on your fence.
Can I force my neighbor to cut down a dead tree?
No, you can’t. However, you could take advantage of your local ordinances and bylaws to get your neighbor to cut a dead tree on his property. The most you could do is have a calm conversation with him, explaining the dangers the dead tree poses for your property and the community. Offer to pay for part of the tree removal costs, and it is a gesture that gets better results than issuing legal threats.
Typically, dead trees take up to 2 years to fall over. If the soil has sufficient moisture and the tree isn’t disturbed in any way, you’ll probably have two years of convincing a problematic neighbor to do the right thing before disaster strikes.
Author: Ben McInerney – Ben is a qualified arborist with 15 plus years of industry experience in Arboriculture. He ran a successful tree service before turning to writing and publishing. Ben is dedicated to providing users with the most accurate up-to-date information on everything trees.
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