October 22


Whose Tree Is This? A Homeowner’s Guide to Responsibility

By Noel D.

October 22, 2018

clean up, fallen trees, home owners, ownership, roots, tree care

Picture it: You are staring at a tree that falls right on the property line and you aren’t sure whose tree it is – yours or your neighbors. When that tree is beautiful and blooming – or when it is giving off fruit – you are more likely to claim that the tree is yours and you are the one that nurtured it from a small sapling into the beautiful tree it is now.

Now reverse the situation.

The tree has just fallen onto the windshield of a car that was parked there. Whose tree is it now? Many people don’t want to claim that tree and will say that it falls just beyond your property line – so the liability is your neighbor’s completely.

This is something that we see often – people don’t want to claim that a tree is their own when something bad is happening, but if the tree is just standing there or it looks beautiful, the tree is on their property. Sometimes, people will even claim that a tree is theirs if they want to have it trimmed or cut.

To solve the mystery: the tree belongs to the person who owns the home where the trunk is. If you aren’t sure of your property line, then you can contact the local government to find out just where that line is and who owns what.

Still, that doesn’t solve all of the questions that some people have about tree ownership:

4. Tree Fell On My Property

fallen tree
Credit: northbaywanderer
  • First, call the insurance company
  • Do not move tree if there are hazards
  • You might both have responsibility

If your neighbor’s tree falls onto your property, who has to clean it up and who has to pay for any damage? You have to contact your insurance company, first and foremost. You can only prove that your neighbor is liable for damages if he or she knew that the tree could fall and didn’t do anything about it. This means that the tree was diseased or damaged and showed signs that it could fall, according to House Logic.

If you think that a tree could fall on your property, make sure that you take photos and document the problems. This can be used to ensure that your home owner’s insurance rates don’t increase after the accident.

If not, most of the damage should be covered by your insurance company.

3. Tree Roots And Septic Tanks

root systems
Credit: John Shortland
  • Be careful to mind any roots on your property
  • Stop this problem before it even starts
  • Know where septic tanks are when you plant trees

Roots creeping into the septic tank almost always cause a terrible problem for the homeowner. If you have a septic tank, this is something that should be in the back of your mind whenever someone plants a tree. You have to ensure that the roots of the tree don’t push into the septic tank. How can you do this? Do some research into how far the root system of a given tree spreads. Some trees don’t have large root systems, but others do.

According to Lowe’s, “One of the most common techniques is to use a mechanical auger. The mechanical method of root removal involves sending a powered sewer auger down a sewer line. The rotating head is covered in teeth much like a reciprocating saw blade. The rotating action cuts the roots, clearing them, but they will start growing back almost immediately.” However, this is a tool the requires technical precision and you should contact a tree care professional for it.

2. What If A Branch Falls On My Car?

smashed car
Credit: Thom C
  • Homeowners clean up their own yards
  • Auto or home insurance cover most of the debris
  • You may want to look over your car insurance

Just like with debris, if you have a car that is the path of a falling tree or branch, you have to contact your insurance. Once again, if you think that the trees are unhealthy or they aregoing to fall, you want to take pictures and alert your neighbor so that you know they are working on the problem.

If you park your car in an area where there are a lot of trees, you might want to look at your coverage again. According to All State, “Comprehensive coverage helps cover damage to your vehicle that’s not caused by a collision. It typically helps cover things like theft, hail damage, animal damage and tree damage.” This will cause your insurance costs to go up, but it might be worth it. You will want to look over the coverage that you have and ensure that you are protected.

1. A Tree Is Blocking My Scenic View – Now What?

tree blocking view
Credit: ECP
  • Some ordinances cover “air rights”
  • Most of these laws only cover trees
  • Usually only occurs in city or mountain towns

If you have a beautiful view out of your front window and you want to preserve it, it can be disheartening when your neighbor plants a tall tree and blocks your view. Is this legal? Yes – they can do whatever they want in their yard. However, if there are view ordinances, you might have a case. Sadly, these cases can take a long time to argue in courts.

According to FindLaw.com, “Cities and towns near the ocean, with views of the mountains, or that are otherwise known for exceptional views often have view ordinances. However, many of these laws do not include obstructions other than trees. A view ordinance typically allows a property owner who has lost his or her view due to an overgrown tree to sue the tree owner. It is always best to ask the tree owner first, and perhaps offer to split the cost of trimming, filing a lawsuit only as a last resort.” This is something that you might want to investigate before you buy a home with a great view.

So, if you have a home with a beautiful view, you might have a chance to force your neighbor to have the tree cut down, but only in specific places.

If you are worried about your trees or you see something that just doesn’t look right, make sure to give Arbortec Tree Service a call at (303) 466-3175. While you can certainly watch over your trees and love them, there is nothing that beats the practiced hand of professionals.

Header photo courtesy of Teemu008 on Flickr!

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