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Neighborhoods full of stately trees are gorgeous and welcoming. Mature trees call to mind visions of tire swings, tree houses, and friendly waving neighbors. Unfortunately, all it takes is one storm and a fallen tree or tree limb to sour the relationship between neighbors.

When your neighbor’s tree is standing healthy and strong it is clear who owns the tree. With the possible exception of some overhanging limbs, the whole of the tree is contained on your neighbor’s property. The problem arises when an unusually strong storm hits your neighborhood bringing with it strong winds or tornadoes. The winds uproot your neighbor’s tree and it falls on your house. Depending on the size and location of the tree relative to your home, the damage can be devastating.

Who Is To Blame?

Liability is an important factor in American society. We believe if someone damages your property, either intentionally or accidentally, they are liable for repairing the damage that was done. Therefore, it makes sense to assume that when the neighbor’s tree falls on your house causing substantial damage, the neighbor is responsible for repairing that damage. Your neighbor is likely to agree with your assumption and submit a claim for the damages to their homeowner’s insurance company. However, their insurance company will not pay on that claim, they will bounce the liability back over to you, the owner of the now damaged house and direct you to submit the claim to your homeowner’s insurance company instead.

It Wasn’t My Tree, Why Do I Have To Pay?

If you are thinking that this all seems a little unfair, you are not alone. This is a common source of confusion for homeowners. It all starts to make sense once you dig into how homeowners insurance works. Depending on the level of coverage you have, your homeowner’s insurance policy generally covers the cost of repairs or replacement when your home is damaged due to fire, flood, weather, theft, vandalism, etc. Your insurance policy will also cover any of the damages you are liable for if someone is injured on your property. The tree falling on your home is considered storm damage or an act of nature. Essentially it was the storm that damaged your house. Your neighbor’s tree is just the tool it used to do so. Your homeowner’s insurance will cover the damage to your home
Curtis Fay and his team showed up at our house today with all of the heavy equipment necessary to surgically remove a large tree leaning toward our house. I couldn’t stay the whole time and when I got home I surveyed the yard and you wouldn’t even know they were there. Except, of course, the tree vanished. Fast. Excellent clean-up. Great value.

Eric Fuhrman, Memphis, TN

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Does The Neighbor’s Negligence Matter?

If you are truly worried that a tree on a neighboring property is posing a danger to your home or property, try talking to your neighbor about your concerns. Approach the conversation with your neighbor in good faith. Your neighbor may be unaware that their tree is in poor condition or has overgrown the property lines, they may not have the wiggle room in their budget to pay a professional tree service to correct the problem, or the tree could have sentimental value. Once you learn more about the situation you can proceed from that knowledge.

If a tight budget is a concern you may consider offering to take on hiring and paying for a professional tree service to evaluate the tree and correct the problem areas. Just bear in mind, you cannot force a person to remove a tree that is on their property.

Keep a paper trail record of all of your attempts to remedy the situation. If the worst-case scenario occurs, and the tree falls and damages your home, you will have a record of your proactive attempts to avoid this outcome. You will still need to file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance company to remove the tree and repair the damage to your home. However, your insurance company may want to recover their loss from your neighbor’s insurance if they can prove negligence was a factor.

What If The Tree Damages My Vehicles?

Very often cars that are parked outside bear the brunt of the damage when a tree falls. Again, like damage to your home, damage to your car is generally covered by your vehicle’s insurance policy. Unfortunately, damage of this sort will only be covered by a vehicle insurance policy that includes full comprehensive coverage. If you are still making payments on your car you will have a full coverage policy. Banks require full coverage to protect their investment in the vehicle until the note is paid off. Full comprehensive coverage is expensive and most people drop their car insurance down to a liability only policy once they make their last car payment. If your car insurance does not include full comprehensive coverage any damage done to your car will not be covered.

You may be able to recover your losses by filing a civil suit against your neighbor for the damages caused by their negligence, however you would need to have the documentation discussed earlier to make your case that the neighbor was made aware of the problems, and offered solutions which they refused.

What If I Live In A Rental Property?

If you are not the owner of the home, you will need to contact the owner immediately to let them know what has occurred. The homeowner will need to file a claim with their homeowner’s insurance company. The homeowner will need to hire a professional service to remove the tree and repair the damage to the home so that it is safe and secure. If the damage is significant they may be able to provide you with alternative accommodations until the home is repaired.

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An Ounce Of Prevention

As a homeowner, you have a responsibility to ensure that your property does not damage your neighbor’s property. Regular tree maintenance service by a professional tree service company can help keep your trees strong and healthy and able to weather the Memphis storm season. Mister Tree’s team of ISA-certified Arborists have a combined 30 plus years of experience. Mister Tree provides complete tree maintenance and removal services throughout the greater Memphis area. Click on “Contact Us” and fill out the contact form to let us know how we can help.