Avoid being stuck with the responsibility and expensive repairs when a tree falls on or from your property onto a neighbors’. Knowing how to define responsibility for fallen trees will help you resolve the situation promptly and fairly.
toddsmariettatreeservices.com gathered information on who is responsible for a tree when it falls, when homeowners insurance should be involved, and proactive measures to prevent your trees from falling.
Fallen Tree Damage Responsibility
A tree does not decide where to fall, but it can cause catastrophic damages when it does fall. Here’s how to determine who is responsible for what:
Neighbor’s Tree Falls on My Property – I am responsible for the portion of the tree that fell on my property, including filing damage claims with my homeowners insurance carrier.
My Tree Fell on My Neighbor’s Property – I am responsible for the portion of the tree remaining on my property and any insurance claims regarding my property.
This assignment of responsibility for a tree and/or branches falling on your property is common throughout the U.S. cities. However, you can dispute this responsibility if before the tree fell:
- You documented and communicated your concerns about the tree to your neighbor.
- You or your neighbor contracted a certified arborist to conduct a tree hazard assessment (of the tree in question) and found it to be diseased, dying, or dead and posing a threat to your property.
- Your city’s arborist or forester notified your neighbor that the tree was diseased, dying, or dead, requiring its removal or pruning.
You are not responsible for normal or seasonal debris that falls into your neighbor’s yard, like leaves, seeds, and twigs. Your neighbor is responsible for the cleanup of those things.
Note: Neighbors are typically able to work things out without too much debate or trouble. You may need to file a homeowners insurance claim when there are extensive structural damages. Depending on the policy and coverages you have, your homeowners insurance may or may not cover tree cleanup and damage repair expenses.
Tip: For your local ordinance / regulations regarding tree stewardship and legal tree removal, visit municode.com, click on “code library” from the menu, click on your state, then find your county or city. Type “trees” in the search engine and select the relevant results. If you happen to reside in Cobb County or Marietta Ga, visit toddsmariettatreeservices.com/removal-permit-ordinance/ for local regulations regarding trees.
Tree Damage and Homeowners Insurance Claims
When a tree falls on your house, whether or not you own the tree, there are some things you should do. The following will help you prevent further damages and seamlessly file your insurance claim:
- Call 9-1-1 in the event anyone suffered injuries when the tree fell.
- If it is safe to approach the tree and damages, take pictures of the damages (a narrated video will allow you to explain what you are filming and capture hundreds of images from the video).
- Call your insurance agent. They can explain your options and guide you through the process of filing a claim.
- After filing a claim, an adjuster will pay a visit to the property, assess the damages, and explain how your homeowners insurance coverages come into play.
- If you have documented proof that the fallen tree (from your neighbor’s property) was diseased, dying, or dead and that you previously notified your neighbor about the tree’s condition, present this to the adjuster. You may have a case to hold your neighbor responsible for all costs and repairs.
- Make sure to notify the claims adjuster or insurance agent before contracting a tree removal service. Some well-established tree services may communicate directly with your insurance company, helping you through the claims process.
Tip: If you were injured when a tree fell, and you can prove that someone else’s negligence is the cause of that injury, you may have a legal case. Discuss your fallen tree situation with a personal injury lawyer to learn more about your rights.
Note: If the fallen tree is yours, and it was diseased or dying before it fell, your insurance claim may be denied due to neglect.
The following measures should also be taken after a tree falls on your home:
- Once the tree has been removed, hire a roofing company to repair the damaged portion of the roof and inspect the rest of the roof for any hidden damages from the tree’s impact.
- Hire a contractor to evaluate the structural integrity of your home.
- Hire a plumber to inspect and evaluate the home’s plumbing.
- Hire an ISA certified arborist to perform a tree hazard assessment on the rest of your trees.
The impact of a falling tree can reverberate throughout your home, causing hidden minor damages that can quickly develop into expensive problems.
Read more about the necessity of tree hazard assessments at toddsmariettatreeservices.com/why-do-i-need-tree-hazard-assessment/
How to Prevent Tree Damage
While mother nature can present forces beyond our control, there is much you can do to help your trees withstand severe weather. The following will help you boost the longevity of your trees and avoid catastrophic damages from their structural failure:
- Water, mulch, fertilize, and prune your trees as needed for their species and age.
- Hire a professional tree service to thin the crown, reducing wind resistance.
- Have your trees inspected annually by an ISA certified arborist.
- When you detect dieback, chlorosis, and/or fungal growth (mushrooms), take immediate action by hiring a tree service to evaluate the problem’s depth.
- If your tree is leaning, stake it, or have it removed.
- If you cannot save your tree or it has become a nuisance, have it removed.
Tip: When your tree presents signs of declining health, have it inspected and treated immediately. The longer a problem persists, the more dangerous your tree becomes to surrounding structures and neighboring trees (diseases and infestations spread quickly)
Read more about tree emergencies at toddsmariettatreeservices.com/how-to-identify-tree-emergency/
Fallen Tree Responsibility
In this article, you discovered valuable insight into who is responsible when a tree falls, defining who a tree belongs to, when a homeowners insurance policy should be activated, and what you can do to prevent a tree from falling.
Recognizing tree problems and having them addressed will help you avoid the uncomfortable situation of being held responsible for structural damages and potentially life-threatening injuries.
Ignoring tree problems leaves you vulnerable to your insurance carrier denying your claim and potentially being sued for all damages and repairs caused by your tree when it falls.