After storms rolled through the area last week our office fielded a number of calls about downed trees causing damages.  A Partner at Phillips Stafford Insurance Group even had to deal with this very situation when his tree fell on his neighbors yard.

So, who’s responsible for the cleanup? The tree owner or the property owner for which it fell? The answer may surprise you.

In most cases, if your neighbor’s tree falls on your property it’s your responsibility to clean it up.  Your neighbor is also not responsible for any damages the tree may cause.  It doesn’t matter if the tree is 100% on your neighbors property and not yours.

There is one exception to this rule.  If you can prove your neighbor was negligent in caring for the tree they may be held liable.  For instance, if the tree owner had an arborist look at the tree and the arborist advised the owner to have it cut down and they didn’t, they could be held liable.

If the fallen tree does cause damage to any of your property like a fence or your home, your home insurance would likely cover it.  They may even cover the cleanup if the tree is blocking a driveway, sidewalk, or handicap ramp.  If the tree falls on a vehicle the car insurance would kick in to cover it if the car has comprehensive insurance coverage.

Similar to a neighbors tree falling on your property, if your tree falls on a street, for example, it would be the responsibility of the city (or whichever jurisdiction handles street cleanup) to remove the tree from the street.  But they would only be responsible to clean the tree up to the curb.  The rest of the tree that resides in your yard would be your responsibility.

While the law may say one thing, the unwritten rules of being a good neighbor would probably say another.  While it isn’t your responsibility to clean up debris from your tree that falls on your neighbors yard, it is probably a good idea to at least help.  Or you can follow the example of the Phillips Stafford Group Partner that this happened to.  He cleaned up the whole mess as well as a tree the neighbor was wanting to remove anyways.

So, if your tree falls in your neighbors yard, we suggest you grab a chain saw and help out (if able).  But if the tree caused any damage to your neighbors property, kindly ask them to call their home insurance provider.

Photo By DragonFire1024 at en.wikinews from Wikimedia Commons