Trees can pose a great deal of danger to people and their property. If a homeowner has a tree in his yard that poses a danger to his neighbour's house, he may need to take action to diffuse the threat to the neighbour's house. If not, the homeowner could be held liable for the damage to his neighbour's house.
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States typically do not create statutes regarding "tree law." If a person needs to find out what the laws are in her state regarding trees falling onto a neighbour's house, she needs to consult case law. If a court adjudicates a case where a tree has fallen and damaged another person's house, the courts look at whether the tree was planted by someone or occurred naturally, whether the owner was given some notice as to the foreseeability of the incident and whether the tree was in such poor condition that it gave the owner some notice as to a potential for injury.
Generally, if a perfectly healthy tree in a homeowner's yard falls onto his neighbour's house, this is seen as an act of nature. The person will not be held liable for the damage the tree does to the neighbour's house. The neighbour's homeowner's insurance should be able to cover the damage caused by the fallen tree. The incident of the tree falling would have been unforeseen; therefore, the owner of the tree will not be regarded as negligent for not removing the tree from his property.
The rules change when the owner has been made aware that the tree may cause damage to the neighbour's house if the tree were to fall. If the owner knows that the tree is not healthy and may fall under the right circumstances, the owner would be negligent in not removing the threat of damage to the neighbour's property. To recover financially, the neighbour needs to be able to prove negligence. The neighbour needs to show a court that the owner had a duty to remove the tree; that the owner breached that duty; that the breach of the duty caused harm to the neighbour's house; and that the neighbour suffered monetary damages as a result.
Protecting Your House
If you thinks that your neighbour's tree may fall onto your house, you can take some steps to protect yourself and your property. You should have a certified arborist or urban forester inspect the tree. If the expert finds that the tree is a threat, you should talk to your neighbour about the threat of the tree falling onto your house. If the owner does not take heed to the warning that the tree causes a threat to your house, you should put the expert's findings in writing and present it to your neighbour. That puts the owner on notice that he may be held liable if the tree were to damage your house.
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