You could be sitting in your living room watching TV on a stormy afternoon, and suddenly, you hear a loud bang. You look out the window only to see that your neighbor’s tree has toppled over and fallen into your yard, completely dismantling your fence. Here’s what you need to do next.
1. Determine Who’s Responsible - Let Your Property Map Decide
Who’s responsible? It’s your neighbor’s tree, it’s their responsibility. Not so fast! Legally it comes down to whose property the tree was on. If you have a fence separating your yard from your neighbor’s, check your property map first before assuming they are responsible. You may find out that your fence is actually on their property, and it’s your tree!
Go investigate the damage yourself, keeping in mind that you are no expert (typically). Then, if you are on friendly terms with your neighbor, try speaking to them first. See if you can work out a fair agreement before bringing in lawyers and claims adjusters.
2. Review Your Insurance Policies – Call Your Separate Agents
If the fallen tree has damaged your home or vehicle, contact your insurance provider immediately after initially assessing the damage. Don’t move anything and take pictures for your insurance claim. Never just rely on the other side’s insurer. Call your own too.
3. Hire an Arborist - Figure out the Condition the Tree was in
If the tree in question was unhealthy in some way, your neighbor will be responsible. But if it was a healthy tree, it may be ruled an act of God and you will be on the hook for the damages to your property.
See if your insurance company will cover the costs of an arborist who can determine the health of the tree before it came down. They will take good pictures of the tree, proving its soundness based on how it split, its roots and its position when it fell.
4. Assign Responsibility Not Blame - Let Your Agents Duke Out Who's at Fault
The average cost of tree removal can be as much as $150 up to $1,500. Once your claims agents, lawyers or small claims court have assessed responsibility, let that be the end of it. Don’t let it get personal.
Let your agents duke it out while you do what you can to keep things civil. Choose your words carefully and remember you still have to live next door to each other!
5. Work together on Prevention – Devise a Plan to Avoid This in the Future
As a homeowner, you are responsible for maintaining your property. Weather can have a big impact on your trees’ stability. Ice, snow and wind can weaken your trees making them more likely to fall during a storm. Work together with your neighbor to remove hanging limbs and diseased trees from your properties. That way you both can avoid causing more damage in the future.