5 On Your Side

Five On Your Side Gets To The 'Root' Of Fallen Tree Issue

Posted February 18, 2005

— Five On Your Side often get calls about property damage issues. If your neighbor's tree falls on your property and damages it, who is responsible? The answer depends a lot on the condition of the tree.

A fence was not nearly enough to keep a tree out of Sharon VandeMortel's yard.

"It hit the top of the gazebo and it just came crashing down off the side and came down and just wiped out everything over here," she said. "I'm just glad it didn't hit the house."

The tree belongs to VandeMortel's neighbor. She said it is the second time one of the neighbor's trees has fallen into her yard. She said when it happened the first time, she told her neighbors she was concerned about the latest tree that fell.

"We had offered to help them cut it down before we built the gazebo. and that's when they say, 'We're not going to worry about it. It's no big deal.' Now, it's a big deal," VandeMortel said.

VandeMortel even followed up with a certified letter last May and took pictures of the tree. Now, she wants the neighbor to pay for damages. Attorney Barry Mann said the law is on her side.

"[A] dead tree falls on your neighbor's property. You, as landowner, have responsibility. It's a general rule," he said.

Mann said the key is the poor health of a tree has to be something a reasonable person would notice.

"None of us are tree experts, but if we see a tree leaning, sap falling down, bugs coming out of it and big rotten places in a tree, that's pretty good notice that we have a dead tree," Mann said.

"It's not fair for a homeowner to get away with crap like this," VandeMortel said.

VandeMortel's neighbor told Five On Your Side the tree was on an easement, so she feels it is not her problem.

If a healthy tree falls because of lightning, a storm or hurricane -- something that could not be predicted -- that is a different story. In that case, the owner of the property where the tree fell is responsible.

If you notice a tree that looks like it could hit your house, protect yourself by taking pictures and sending the neighbor a certified letter.


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