Whose responsibility when a tree falls?

A Neighbor's Tree Fell On My HouseHappy last day of school for almost everyone!  I now have a 2nd grader – hard to believe my baby is going into Second Grade next year.  Well he’s ready to begin summer right now!  He only has 2 hours today.

On the way to school this morning he saw this house that I’ve had listed on and off, its rented right now.  He had the mom call to let me know. I drove over as its around the corner from me and I took this picture and emailed it to my client who lives in New York.  My friend’s first comment was, “This will be complicated, as its the neighbors’ tree”.

I’ve had a lot of experience with trees and its actually pretty clear cut, if it falls on your property its your problem.  The neighbor is responsible for cutting down dead trees and you have the right to notify them in writing if there’s a dead tree that poses a risk to your property, but the only way you can get them to pay “legally” is to have proof that they were notified that there was a dead tree.  That part is difficult, it would need to be a certified letter or some sort of official notification.

I had a tree fall on my rental property a year or so ago and it didn’t hit the house but broke the fence in the rear of my property and cost me close to $1,000 to remove.  I put a friendly note in the neighbor’s mailbox to let them know and gave them a copy of the bill – nothing…

Legally they didn’t have to do anything as I didn’t know it was dead and hadn’t notified them of such.  Now I will say, its a common courtesy to help out in these situations, but there is not a legal responsibility.  I am not an attorney, so I will add a disclaimer that you should always contact your attorney or insurance company for your particular situation and this is all Georgia specific.  Also, its good to check your insurance policy, as my experience tells me that if it doesn’t land on the house its not usually in the policy for any kind of protection, so that $1,000 to remove was totally on me.

In the case of this house on Randall Farm, the insurance company will most likely cover the damage to the house, but not the tree removal.  Again, we all hope the neighbor realizes what happened and comes to the rescue.

Just wanted to let everyone know what I’ve learned from my experience.  If you’ve had success getting the tree owner to pay for your damage, please let me know and how.

Update: The neighbor did take responsibility and the tree is already removed, an example of common courtesy! When you have a good relationship with your neighbor they usually do take responsibility for their trees. My clients’ insurance will need to cover the damage to the house.  

Update July 11th, 2012 I had a tree fall in my personal property yard from my uphill neighbor on Paces Lake and much to my disappointment they weren’t as nice as the neighbor above.  They feel its an act of God and not their responsibility.  Just my luck I’d have the one neighbor in Vinings that would feel that way!  I have learned thru this process from talking to 3 different tree companies, that 99% of people take responsibility for their trees if they fall.  I can’t believe I’m dealing with the 1%!

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  1. Whose Responsibility when a tree falls? « Atlanta Fine Homes Blog | Sotheby's International Realty
  2. » Whose Responsibility when a tree falls? Atlanta Fine Homes | Sotheby's International Realty

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