Who Is Responsible When Your Tree Falls on Your Neighbor's Property?

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One of the quickest ways to cause tensions among neighbors is when your tree falls on your neighbor’s house, car or property; or your neighbor’s tree falls on your house, car or property.

A lot of forethought does not go into this, as everyone likes trees and they make the neighborhood beautiful.
However, there is always a possibility during any story that your tree or a large tree limb could fall on your neighbor’s house or car. The same holds true for your neighbor’s tree falling onto your property or house.

The best way to prepare for this possible scenario is by knowing the fallen tree laws in Virginia. It would also be helpful to talk with your neighbors so they understand who is responsible when trees fall on homes during storms.

In a nutshell, according to Commonwealth of Virginia, the following laws apply:

Who is responsible when your neighbor’s tree falls on your house, car or property? Should my neighbor’s insurance company pay?
Unless negligence can be proven, the neighbor’s policy covers his/her house and your policy covers your house. Generally, if the tree is damaged due to a storm, the owner would not be considered negligent.

My tree fell on my neighbor’s house. Does my policy pay the damage caused by the tree? Who pays to remove the tree?
The neighbor’s policy covers his/her house and your policy covers your house. You neighbor’s policy would also pay to have the tree removed from his house.

My tree fell in my yard. Will the insurance company pay for it?
Most policies cover clean up and removal of fallen trees that cause damage to your home or property. Some policies cover clean up and removal of fallen trees that block your driveway. Check with your insurance company now, so you know what to do if an unfortunate accident happens.

If my tree falls on my fence or deck furniture, will the insurance company pay for the trees removal and clean up?
Most policies pay for the reasonable cost for clean up and removal of trees that fall and cause damage to your fence or deck furniture. However, if a tree falls on your property and causes no damage, the insurance company would not cover removal costs.

If any repair under warranty needs repair, what is your timeline?
You will want this answer to be “immediately.” Good roofing companies stand by their work and are responsive to your requests.

My tree is hanging over my house. It hasn’t fallen, but it is posing a danger to the property and my family. Will the company pay for the cost to remove it?
Most policies do not provide coverage for removing trees that may fall on the property.

A tree is on my roof. Will the company pay for me to have the roof tarped?
Insurers expect homeowners to protect their property from further damage and will pay the reasonable costs associated with protecting the property. Placing tarps on the roof is a way of protecting your property from further damage.

What am I supposed to do when the insurance company won’t come to the house for at least a week and rain is predicted? Can I get a roofing contractor to start repairs?
Most insurance companies will want to see the damage before final repairs are made. If you have to make temporary repairs, you need to take pictures of the damaged property before making any temporary repairs and keep receipts of what you’ve spent. But, unless the insurance company has told you to go ahead and make final repairs, you should wait.

What do I need to do to prove that the loss occurred? I need to clear the area of debris and can’t wait indefinitely for the claim adjuster to inspect the property.
Take pictures, video tape your damage, keep a list of expenses, and keep a list of any discarded items. It is reasonable to remove debris that prevents access to your driveway or home.

If your neighbor’s tree falls on your house, or your own tree falls on your house, and causes considerable damage, you should:

• Contact your agent or insurance company as soon as possible.
• Keep an inventory of your damaged property–take pictures or videotape the damage if possible.
• Protect the property from further damage. Keep receipts from any expenses you incur from protecting the property or making temporary repairs.
One of the grey areas of the fallen tree issue is the certified letter that many homeowners think solves the “who is responsible when your tree falls on your neighborhood’s house,” and “who is responsible when your neighbor’s tree falls on your house, car, or property?”

It works like this: a homeowner sends a certified letter to his neighbor, return receipt, requesting that he remove the tree in question or take some remedial action so that the tree its large limbs will not fall on the letter sender’s house, car or property and cause serious damage.

The certified letters seems to address the answer to the first question in this article, which states “unless negligence can be proven”. If your neighbor’s tree is dead or damaged and you had made the neighbor aware of the condition of the tree prior to the storm by way of certified letter, it is possible that the neighbor would be liable for damages if his tree fell on your home. However, as a roofing contractor, I cannot tell you what course of action your insurance company will take. Each case has its own nuances.

Another potential effect of a certified letter is that your neighbor may get the point you’re making and take action to prevent damage to your home, car or property.

If you do not write the certified letter, there is no written record or documentation that puts your neighbor on notice of an impending problem and potential liability.

If there is nothing overtly defective about your neighbor’s trees, and one of his trees falls on your house, he is not liable for your damages. That is simply seen as an act of God, not the neighbor.

To reduce the chance that you’re liable if your tree falls on your neighbor’s house or property, you can do the following:

• Regularly inspect and maintain your trees.
• Hire a licensed tree company to examine the condition of any tree you feel may be diseased.
• Promptly fix any dangerous situations, as the next big storm is usually right around the corner.
Once that is done, you have eliminated the chance that you “knew or should have known” about a dangerous tree or branch on your property,

I hope this article has been helpful in answering the questions of “who is responsible when your tree falls on your neighborhoods property,” and “who is responsible when your neighbor’s tree falls on your house, car, or property.”

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