If a tree falls in Rockland County

Dated: November 7 2011

Views: 4419

With all the trees that came down in this last freak storm, the issue of who is responsible for a fallen tree has become a topic of discussion.   

I have a client who has a large tree that is rooted on his neighbor's property, but has fallen across his fence and into his backyard.  He wanted to know who was responsible for removing the tree and repairing his fence.

I wasn't sure what the answer was so I asked several different groups of people to hear what they had to say. I spoke with insurance companies, attorneys, tree removal contractors, real estate agents, and homeowners, and although I heard several different stories, there was a recurring theme.  This is what I gathered from my research....

It seems that if the tree falls because of a storm (sometimes referred to as an act of God), then you can't hold the owner of the tree responsible.  So if a tree that was growing on your neighbor's property falls in a storm onto your property, then the portion of that tree on your property is your problem.  If the tree caused damage to your home, your garage, or your fence, etc.., then you most likely can put in a claim with your homeowner's insurance company.  However, if there was no damage to any structure, then they probably won't cover it.

Now if a tree that grows on your neighbor's property comes down onto your property (not necessarily in a storm), and was obviously in jeopardy of falling then that could be a different story.  If you had officially notified your neighbor with a certified letter or some other officially documented method, then you might be able to hold your neighbor responsible.  You have to be able to prove, maybe with photographs, that the tree was leaning dangerously, or rotten, or compromised in some other way.   If your neighbor knew about this potential danger, and never did anything about it, then they could be held responsible.  

In a perfect world, you and your neighbor would hopefully work it out (hopefully before the tree comes down) and maybe split the cost...then split the wood for firewood.  And hopefully you won't let a tree ruin your relationship.  After all, they may be your neighbors for many years or even decades to come. 

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Steve Dolinsky

CELEBRATING MY 23rd YEAR IN REAL ESTATE….For the past two decades I have had the pleasure and privilege of living and working in the Nyacks as a full time real estate Broker Associate, assisting buy....

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