Who is Responsible for Overhanging Tree Branches
Don’t accept liability for a tree or its overhanging branches without clarifying responsibility. Once you know how to determine responsibility for a tree and its overhanging branches, you can better reach fair solutions with your neighbors during a tree dispute.
72tree.com gathered the following information on determining who owns and is responsible for a tree’s overhanging branches, and what actions to take.
Trees and Your Property Line
Whether you find yourself on the giving or receiving end of an overhanging tree complaint, it is essential to know who owns the tree in question.
When you purchased your property, you were likely required to get a property survey. If many years have elapsed or there is difficulty determining where the property line is, have a new survey conducted with the surveyor physically marking the property line.
All trees growing on your property with their trunks inside your property line are your responsibility.
In the rare case that a tree is growing directly on the property line, ownership and responsibility of that tree are equally shared between you and your neighbor.
Overhanging Tree Branches
As a tree grows upward, it also grows outward. Over time, some of those branches can grow past your property line overhanging your neighbor’s yard or home. The responsibilities of each property owner are typically as follows:
Owner of the Tree – You are responsible for the overall care of the tree, including:
• Watering, mulching, and fertilizing
• Staking or anchoring if the tree becomes unstable or is leaning
• Trimming or pruning the canopy (up to your property line)
• Detecting and treating illnesses and insect infestations. Learn more about tree health problems and solutions at 72tree.com/9-common-tree-health-problems-solutions/
If your tree succumbs to disease, infestation, or dies for any reason, the responsibility to remove the tree is yours. You could be held responsible for the damages it may cause if it should fall.
The Neighbor – Your neighbor is responsible for the following:
• The trimming or pruning of overhanging branches up to their property line*
• Cleaning fallen leaves, needles, twigs and other debris from the overhanging branches
Your neighbor should also make any concerns or complaints about potential hazards from the tree known to you.
If your neighbor documents this communication or files a complaint with the town, and you do nothing, you may be held liable for damages caused by any portion of the tree falling on your neighbor’s property.
*All trimming or pruning activities must be done in a way that promotes the health of the tree. If your neighbor’s actions result in the declining health or death of the tree, they may be held liable for the cost of the replacement of that tree.
Your Tree Falls on Your Neighbor’s Property
If your tree or a portion of the tree should fall on your neighbor’s property, the health of the tree when it fell is vital in determining responsibility.
Healthy Tree – If the tree was healthy and well maintained with no signs of decay or infestation, the removal and any damages caused by the tree will be your neighbor’s responsibility.
The majority of homeowners insurance providers will cover such a claim.
Diseased or Dying Tree – If your tree had clear signs of disease, infestation, rot, or your neighbor filed a complaint about the hazard, you could be held liable for all damages caused by the falling tree.
Protect yourself and your neighbors by hiring a trusted tree service to perform annual inspections of your trees. These inspections allow them to detect any potential trouble and recommend a course of action.
Learn more about what to do when a neighbor’s tree falls on your house at 72tree.com/my-neighbors-tree-fell-on-my-house-now-what/
View Obstruction Ordinances
Throughout the United States, there are a few cities with “view ordinances.” These ordinances state the importance of the view to the value of the property.
If your tree reaches a height that obstructs a neighbor’s view (in a city with such ordinances), you may be ordered to reduce the height of the tree or remove it.
Before planting new trees on your property, it is worth the time and effort to research your city’s laws for these specific ordinances. Once you know the limitations imposed by these ordinances, you can select the appropriate species to plant.
Overhanging Tree Responsibility
In this article, you discovered how tree ownership is determined, what you are responsible for when trees overhang a neighbor’s property, and their responsibilities.
By properly caring for your trees and having them inspected annually, you can detect potential issues early and get them resolved before turning into a problem or dispute.
If you choose to neglect the health of your tree(s), you can be held liable for all damages caused by that tree falling on your neighbor’s property or house.
NOTE: Cities, municipalities, and towns have ordinances that may vary from the information presented in this article. It is always recommended that you search for your city’s tree ordinances to fully inform yourself.
My Neighbor’s Tree Fell on My House, Now What?
When your neighbor’s 100-foot tree crashes down onto your house, there is much to be done to get life and your home back to normal. When the adrenaline and nerves settle, you’ll need to know what to do next to quickly and safely resolve the situation.
Within greater Atlanta, trees fall pretty frequently. When one lands on a house, immediate action must be taken to prevent further damage and determine who is responsible.
Neighbor’s trees that have fallen on homes is something 72 Tree service has had more than 45 years of experience in mitigating, and in this article lay out exactly the steps and factors you should consider.
What To Do When Your Neighbor’s Tree Falls on Your House
Similar to a fire or flood, it should be treated as an emergency when a tree crashes down on your home. Fast action is required, and the following steps will help you keep everyone safe while getting your home and life back to normal:
1 – Evacuate the property! Get everyone (including pets) out of the house. Gas, water lines, and electrical systems can be severely damaged creating a fire, explosion, or electrocution hazard.
If the tree damaged any vital home systems, and it is not safe to return to the home, get your loved ones to a safe location until after the repairs.
2 – Call 9-1-1 or Respective Emergency Services, to report the incident if your neighbor’s tree:
• Inflicted any injuries or caused any fatalities
• Crossed power lines or damaged utilities before falling on your home, or
• Threatens pedestrians or is blocking the flow of traffic
In such cases, an emergency dispatcher is able to mobilize Medical Services, utilities, a power company unit, or other necessary departments to ensure your and the public’s safety.
Visit 72tree.com/power-line-interfering-trees-city-alpharetta-ga-ordinance/ for non-emergent interfering power lines.
3 – Turn the power off immediately if you smell gas, or water is coming through the roof or from broken pipes. Next locate and turn off the gas and/or water main.
This is a dangerous situation because a spark can cause an explosion from a gas leak, or you could be electrocuted if water comes in contact with live electrical wires.
4 – Document everything that is taking place! Take pictures of the tree and all related damages. This will help you in supporting your case and recovering your settlement when filing an insurance claim.
5 – Contact your homeowner’s insurance provider to report the situation, and follow their instructions (not doing so will potentially void your policy).
6 – Contract a 24-hour emergency tree removal company and certified arborist to remove the tree, and assess whether or not the tree was diseased, dead or dying before it fell.
Depending on the location of the fallen tree and degree of difficulty in accessing it, be sure to contract a tree service that has the skills, experience, tools and equipment (bucket truck, crane, etc.) to get the job done efficiently and safely.
Watch this Roswell removal team to see the correct process of using a crane to remove a fallen tree.
7 – Contract a 24-hour roofing company to inspect damages, tarp, and repair or replace your roof.
8 – Contract a 24-hour plumber if you have any visible leaks or broken pipes that must be repaired. Otherwise, during regular hours contact a plumber to examine your home’s plumbing system for any unseen or concerning collateral damage.
This is an essential step. The jolt of a tree crashing into your home has the potential to disturb and damage the plumbing throughout, and even on the opposite side of the house.
9 – Contract a 24-hour emergency water removal company if water is flooding your home from a storm or broken pipe(s). It is a top priority to cleanup and extract any water from causing further structural damage, or causing a future issue with mold.
What You Need To Know If Your Neighbor’s Tree Falls on Your House
Your House – When your neighbor’s tree falls on your house, there will be apparent damages to the landing area. This type of impact will typically result in hidden structural, electrical, and plumbing problems throughout the house.
Your Neighbor’s Tree – The state of the tree before it fell is of the utmost importance, and the following scenarios will illustrate why:
Scenario #1 (Your Liability) – If your neighbor’s tree was healthy and thriving when it was uprooted, broken, or blown over by severe weather, it is your own homeowner’s insurance policy that will cover damages to your home.
Scenario #2 (Their Liability) – If it is determined and documented by a certified arborist that your neighbor’s tree was diseased, dying, or dead when the event occurred, your neighbor may be held fully responsible for all damages when the following conditions are true:
• In the State of Georgia, the tree owner can be held liable for damages and injuries resulting from the tree’s falling, only if he or she had preexisting knowledge of the tree being dead, dying, or diseased. If there were no apparent reasons for concern (no visible signs of trouble) or no documentation stating otherwise, the tree owner (your neighbor) could not be considered at fault.
• When it can be proven in written form that an arborist, neighbor, tenant, city employee, or other third party identified and reported to the neighbor the existence of a problem before the tree fell, this constitutes preexisting knowledge on the part of the tree owner.
Adjacent Trees – When a tree is uprooted during a storm, be cautious of the trees close to it. Trees growing close together will often rely on each other’s roots to anchor themselves, and when one of those trees falls, the trees around it may become destabilized and fall as well.
The Insurance Company – Some insurance policies can be complicated and confusing, but if the tree damaged a structure on your property – once you have met your deductible and have not exhausted the total coverage limits of your policy – your insurance provider may be liable to pay for damages up to your coverage limits.
The emergency removal company you contract should specialize in large loss claims, and support your efforts in working with your insurance company. 72 Tree has successfully mitigated insurance claims for over 45 years, working with most platinum insurance companies and insurance adjusters to quickly return your life and home to normal.
Your Home, Emergency Tree Removal, Insurance, and Repairs
Knowing what to do when your neighbor’s tree falls on your home will help you focus on what needs to get done vs. who is to blame. Being able to mobilize the right services quickly will help keep stress levels under control, and allow you to get on track to returning life to normal.
Once your neighbor’s tree (or any tree for that matter) falls on your home, fast action is essential. Move your loved ones to a safe location, call 9-1-1 if needed, and contact your homeowner’s insurance provider. Then, contract a trusted emergency tree removal company, a roofing company with a contractor that can inspect the home’s entire physical structure for collateral damages, and a plumber to look for and repair any pipe ruptures or hidden leaks from the impact.
When your neighbor’s tree falls on your home, protect yourself and your assets by taking swift action. Delays or procrastination can become costly problems, potentially voiding your homeowner’s insurance policy while exacerbating damages to your home and property.