Falling Trees: Who is Responsible?

Real Estate Law

Damage to property caused by trees can become a source of conflict between neighbors. When a tree limb falls on your neighbor’s property and destroys some part of his home, who is liable for the damages? Responsibility for the damage will depend on who owns the tree and the underlying cause of the incident.

The first question to ask is: who owns the tree? The location of the trunk of the tree determines ownership. If the tree trunk is on your property, regardless of how much the tree limbs overhang on a neighbor’s property, then the tree belongs to you. A tree trunk that is situated on the property line between the two properties is equally owned by both parties and both are responsible for its care and maintenance.

The law in most states is that if your tree, or any part of the tree, falls on your neighbor’s property as a result of a naturally occurring event (such as a hurricane or snowstorm), then you are not liable for the damages.  To recover damages, the injured party would need to seek reimbursement from their insurance company. However, when a tree damages the neighboring property as a result of the carelessness of the tree owner, then the tree owner may be liable for the damages. For example, in most states, if a tree limb is hanging for a long period of time and the owner neglected to maintain it despite the obvious threat it posed, or ignored complaints from the neighbor about the condition of the tree, then the owner would likely bear responsibility for the consequences of the falling limb.

Similarly, in Georgia, when a tree that falls and damages a neighbor’s property (or injures another individual) bore evidence of being dead or diseased, then the tree owner is liable for damages that resulted from the accident. The case law in Georgia has established that a landowner has the duty to eliminate an apparent danger, but that there is no obligation for landowners to consistently and thoroughly check for damage on every tree on their property. A tree that does not manifestly display signs of death and disease would not impose liability for causing damage to a neighbor’s property.

The experienced team of attorneys at the Law Offices of Mark Weinstein, P.C. can help you litigate your real estate claims. Contact Mark Weinstein and his colleagues at (770) 888-7707 or visit them at https://www.markweinsteinlaw.com to find out how they can advise you.

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