Who Is Responsible For Tree Removal?

By Tree Expert Codey Stout
Updated On

Are you wondering how to determine who is responsible when a tree falls and creates damage or dangerous conditions on or near your property?

You’ve come to the right place!

In this Tree Triage guide, you’ll learn:

  • How to determine who’s responsibility a fallen tree is
  • Different types of property boundaries
  • Hiring a professional to mediate a property dispute

And much more!

Who Is Responsible For Tree Removal?

So, if you’re looking for information on how homeowners can cooperate regarding tree issues presented from a neighboring property, keep reading our detailed guide below to get answers to all of your questions!

Is It Mine Or My Neighbor’s Responsibility?

*This is not legal advice. If you need assistance in determining your (or your neighbor’s) legal responsibility please contact a legal professional.*

Understand that the rights and responsibilities of homeowners vary, not only between states and local laws but even between those of counties and even of smaller municipalities and the common, rural ‘handshake,’ or ‘we’ve always done it this way.’ 

Knowing this is your first step in gathering clear guidance when it comes to defining who is responsible for what trees and the damages they may cause. 

Also, encroachment by trespass and adverse possession does take place, usually over time and this can substantially move legal property boundaries unbeknownst to all involved once taken to court.

When a neighbor’s tree falls into your yard or your ‘real property’ sustains some sort of damage as a direct result of your neighbor’s tree, it is in the best interest of all involved to do your neighborly duty and calmly straighten the issue out amongst yourselves.

This is exemplified well in this video.

YouTube video

However, unfortunately, once insurance companies and lawyers get involved things can get complicated (and very expensive) quite quickly.

Again, it is best to work these problems out amongst yourselves in the most civil manner as is humanly possible. 

Remember, you have to live next to this person, possibly for a lifetime. There is no reason for an ‘Act of God’ to destroy what would otherwise be a fruitful, friendly and neighborly relationship.

What Do You Need To Know About Your Neighbor’s Tree?

If your neighbor wants to remove trees on their property, there’s (usually) not a whole lot you can do about it. Since trees often offer shade and therein energy efficiency to the homes under them, you may feel that loss.

However, once that work encroaches on your property in an effort to complete the removal, then you have a say in what happens next.

So keep the lines of communication open (and friendly) and this will hopefully allow you to deal with any problems that may come up.

The real issues arise when a neighboring tree has caused structural damage to your home or property. This can come in many forms. 

For example, damage from a limb dropping during a storm and taking out a corner of your roof (or car). On a less extreme side, it’s also possible for foliage or branches to encroach on your gutters causing them to clog and leading to a water flow issue.

This can cause tension because not everyone can afford to pay for tree removal services out of pocket and even if your neighbor has homeowners insurance, it may not cover this unique scenario.

Take this quote for example: “Your Homeowner policy does not automatically pay for a fallen tree on your property that damages your neighbor’s property.”

When all is said and done, even though it’s your neighbor’s tree the insurance claim AND the deductible could, ultimately, be yours to face. Additionally, this could also raise your future insurance rates just by making a claim.


What Are The Different Types of Responsibilities and Property Lines?

When you own property, some things are more clear than others. 

For instance, what if the property itself has its boundaries marked by an old oak tree that is clearly identified on a 60-year-old plot map? Who is the owner of that tree?

Other intrusions like overhanging branches coming from your neighbor’s property are a little bit more clear. However, you still may not have the right to cut them. 

If, when you’re looking at a property you’re interested in, you identify some concerns about property lines and such, make them clear to your agent, or even your home inspector.

Also, don’t just take their word for it, if you have the foresight to see this as an issue in the future, get something from them in writing. Again, open communication is key. 

When it comes to serious, life-threatening matters like trees in power lines always let the utility companies handle them. Always! Legally and as a matter of public safety, they know what they’re doing.

Yes, you might end up paying for their work, but again, that is outside the scope of this article.


Fences, Stakes, Boundary Trees and Surveys

Healthy trees can up-root fencing either by time or storm and obviously, this can be expensive. When a tree trunk from your neighbor’s yard encroaches or causes damage to your property it’s an issue to be resolved. 

It’s always best to stay civil and calm to most efficiently work out these issues (that can get sore quickly), but it’s also a great idea to document the discussions and processes of amelioration with photos, etc. *This might be something best to keep to yourself.

Implied/Agreed Upon

It’s possible that you have a legally defined easement to your home, through an adjoining property. This could actually be clearly stated in not only your title/deed but in that of your neighbor’s as well.

Understand that usually, there is a value to the trees on both of your properties.

It’s been proven that trees do add a ‘general’ perceived and actual, real value to all of the homes in a neighborhood. 

This knowledge could create a mutual incentive for both owners to work together to trim the trees to help ensure their health.

My Yard? Or Is It The Neighbor’s Property?

As we’ve discussed, boundary lines aren’t always clear, for any number of reasons. So when you’ve incurred some real property damage and things start to go sour, head them off at the pass and pull in a professional third-party mediator.

First off, make sure you and your neighbor(s) are acting from the same page (your legal plot map). Then, you may need to call in a survey expert and dispute mediator. This will most likely need to happen if the property stakes either never existed or have been lost to time.

When Should You Hire A Professional To Fix A Property Owner’s Dispute?

There are often disputes in real estate and there is always a legal resolution to be worked out. Whether you agree with it or not, is frankly, inconsequential. 

However, if a tree falls on your property and destroys your car (for example), walk down that road of civil resolution with your neighbor as far as they’ll go. Ideally, an easy fix between all parties can be realized. 

If things aren’t resolved to your satisfaction, you may be left with no choice but to take them to court or work within the confines of some sort of mediation (which could be demanded by a judge anyway). 

Again, always stay civil and hope for the best outcome, both in how your neighbor acts towards you and in the way the law provides for a resolution.

What Should You Look For In An Arborist Or Tree Specialist? 

If it’s time to call in a professional to trim your tree to remove it altogether, it’s always best to find a well-insured, seasoned company.

One of the best ways to find the right company for you is to ask any homeowner friends of yours who have had tree work done as they might be able to refer you to the crew they used.

If you don’t have a referral, however, it’s good to find 2-3 companies in your area and get an estimate from each of them to see who might be the best fit for you. (Be mindful of the reviews from previous clients of theirs as well as this can tip you off to any potential pitfalls of working with them.)

Aside from price point, make sure you also ask them thorough questions about the various options you have for removal or trimming service.

Pay attention to how they handle your questions and concern and make sure you choose the company that has the best interests of your property (and possibly your neighbor’s property) as well.

The last thing you should do is go with a tree removal professional based on price alone as they might not be the best fit for your unique situation.

Meet Your Tree Expert

Codey Stout

Codey Stout is the operations manager for Tree Triage and has years of experience removing trees. His expertise has been featured in publications like Yahoo, The Family Handyman, Homes & Gardens, and many more. The only thing Codey likes doing more than removing intrusive trees, is removing unsightly stumps.
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