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Who is responsible when a tree falls on your property?
Last updated: 13 August 2020
When a tree falls big or small it can cause considerable damage to your home, fence, or other structures. Once the tree has fallen most what to know who is responsible and what to do next.
If a tree on your property falls, you are responsible for its removal. If you have homeowners insurance, there is a good chance they will cover the clean-up of the tree and any damage costs.
If the tree has fallen onto your neighbor’s property, then the same as above, but if it has fallen from your neighbor’s property over your common fence, then they are responsible.
If the tree has fallen from a public space onto your property and caused damage, the city will pay for the cleanup and normally the repairs.
Home owner’s insurance and fallen trees
The two biggest factors on whether your homeowner’s insurance will cover the fallen tree costs are:
– The reason for the fall of the tree and the circumstances surrounding it.
– How comprehensive your insurance is.
Your homeowners’ insurance policy would in most cases cover your main property, your shed, fence, and other structure within your property. So if a tree has fallen due to reasons such as heavy winds, storms, or other natural factors and damaged parts of your property your insurance plan is likely to cover your repair costs. However, depending on the terms and agreements of your insurance plan, you may need to bear the deductible component.
However, homeowners’ insurance policies aren’t likely to cover for fallen trees that can be attributed to your negligence such as lack of care and maintenance. For instance, if a tree died many years ago and it falls without any external factors such as heavy winds or storms your insurance plan isn’t likely to cover the damages. Similarly, if the tree fell during the removal of the branch by an unskilled person your insurer isn’t likely to pay for the damages.
What if my tree falls on my neighbours’ property?
The question here again is the reason for the fall of the tree. In case the fall is due to natural reasons such as heavy winds or storm your neighbor would have to rely on his/her homeowners’ insurance plan to cover the damages.
In case of the tree damaging the fence, both you and your neighbor are liable to pay 50% of the cost. Hence your neighbor’s insurer may only bear 50% of the cost of the fence and you may need to seek the remaining 50% from your own insurer. However, there are cases when you could have the liability on your head when a tree falls on your neighbors’ property.
Here are some cases where you could be held liable for the damages and receive the olive branch from your insurer:
• The tree fell due to negligence or lack of maintenance. For instance, the tree was rotting and you didn’t take timely actions to remove it in a safe manner.
• The tree is of a species that is known for dropping branches and hence you are liable to get those branches removed on time.
• The tree fell during a removal where you preferred the DIY route or hired a person without licenses instead of hiring a professional arborist for the job.
• The company that you hired for the tree removal didn’t carry the right equipment to prevent accidental falls and don’t have public liability insurance.
In such events, the onus might be on you to pay up for the damages as your insurer isn’t likely to come to your rescue. Avoid these mistakes we have mentioned above and you’ll not have to bear those losses
Who is responsible if a tree falls on my house from a public park?
If your house is close to a public park in the event of a heavy storm or winds a tree may fall on your property. The question that would immediately come to your mind is regarding the liability of the damages and the cost of removal of the tree.
Typically since the tree belongs to the community you are also one of the owners of the tree. Thus your homeowners’ insurance plan would cover all the damages caused by the fallen tree such as damage to your main property, to your fence, and any other structure in your yard that has been damaged by the fallen tree.
As far as the cost of the tree removal is concerned the local town committee or any other local body that is responsible for managing the trees in public places of your town or committee shall be responsible for the costs.
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Who is responsible if a neighbour’s tree falls on your house?
The answer to this question is similar to the one that we have already stated in the question regarding a tree from your yard falling on your neighbor’s property.
If the fallen tree has caused any structural damage to your property the cost of repair would be covered by your homeowners’ insurance plan. In such an event the cost of removal of debris may also be covered. As far as the cost of repairing the fence is concerned the costs would need to be shared between both the parties as is typically the norm and hence your neighbor would also need to rely on their homeowners’ insurance plan for the cost of repair.
The one bone of contention that remains is if the fallen tree hasn’t caused any structural damage to your property and has fallen on open ground.
In such an event your homeowners’ insurance policy may not cover the cost of tree removal. In such events, your neighbor is responsible for the cost of tree removal. You’d need to explain to your neighbor that the tree removal cost isn’t covered in your insurance plan and request them to take the necessary actions.
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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