If Your Neighbor’s Tree Falls Onto Your House, Whose Claim Is It?

April 29, 2022

If your neighbor's tree falls onto your house, whose claim is it?

Introduction

If you've lived in Tennessee for any length of time, you know trees are basically everywhere. They're a defining part of our state's topography. And because trees are so common here, it can be easy to take them for granted.

We may not realize it, but trees are a vital part of our environment. They provide shade, stabilize soil, supply oxygen, and increase property values. In fact, according to the USDA Forest Service, air conditioning costs can be reduced by as much as 56% by strategically placing trees near a house.

Trees offer us numerous benefits, but sometimes they do cause inconveniences for us. Like any other plant, they require occasional maintenance. But unlike many other plants, trees are very large and heavy. When trees fall in residential areas, they sometimes fall on fences, sheds, garages, and houses. When one of your trees falls on your neighbor's property, one question many people don't think about until it happens is, "Who files the claim?" 

Our agents get this question and others like it several times a year. Below are a handful of the most common questions our agents answer on this subject:

 

“My Neighbor’s Tree Fell on My Property. Who Files the Claim?”

If your neighbor’s tree falls and does damage to your covered property, it would be your responsibility to file the claim. Courts have decided in these circumstances that the owner of the tree is not necessarily responsible for damages caused by the tree. The single overriding factor that could change this would be if the tree owner knew in advance that their tree was dying or could fall over and damage someone’s property but did not act in good faith to fix the problem in advance.

Put simply, the property owner bears the responsibility of looking after the security of their own property. However, since property owners can’t remove trees owned by their neighbors, they are responsible for notifying their neighbors of dead or dying trees that may fall on their property. In cases where a person lets their neighbors know proactively before a tree falls, courts tend to assign responsibility to the neighbor rather than the property owner.

 

“What If a Neighbor's Tree Branch Falls on My Property and Causes Damage?”

If a neighbor's tree branch falls on your property, it becomes your claim. Whether it is a branch or a full tree would only affect the cost of repair—not the process of speaking with your agent and filing a claim.

 

“Am I Allowed to Remove Boundary Trees?”

Boundary trees are trees with trunks that are situated on the property line between two adjoining landowners. Boundary trees are quite common and rarely pose a problem for property owners. If you’d like to get rid of a boundary tree for any reason, you must first consult with the neighbor since you are both co-owners of the tree. In many cases, the two property owners are able to come to a mutually beneficial decision without involving a third party.

 

“What Can I Do If My Neighbor’s Tree Branches Interfere with My Property?”

In most cases where branches overhang onto someone’s property, no action is needed. This is because, in most cases, no real harm is done to a person’s property or land by overhanging branches. However, there are cases where branches can become a nuisance, perhaps by making it difficult to mow around, attracting pesky insects, or even preventing one’s roof from drying, causing water damage.

Self-help used to be a person’s only legal option for cases like this. In December 2002, however, the Supreme Court of Tennessee ruled that, while self-help should still be the first action taken, it is not the only option available in select cases. The Supreme Court of Tennessee decided that a nuisance action may be brought when tree branches and roots from the adjacent property encroach upon and damage or pose an imminent danger of actual harm to the neighboring landowner's property.

If you find yourself in this situation, we recommend discussing the issue with your neighbor first. This is going to be your cheapest, quickest, and friendliest solution. If the tree’s branches do pose a serious threat to your property and all other options fail, you do have the option of speaking with an attorney to pursue legal remediation.

 

“My Tree Fell in My Yard. Is It Covered?”

If a tree falls and does not damage any property, there is no need to file a claim since no property was damaged. You’ll just need to safely break up the tree and haul it off somewhere to keep it from killing your lawn.

 

“What Should I Do If I Think My Neighbor’s Tree Might Fall on My Property?”

A customer should always act proactively if they believe a tree is about to fall on their house. If your neighbor’s tree looks like it’s diseased, dying, or about to fall down, be sure to have a friendly chat with your neighbor and let them know about the danger. If weeks have gone by and you don’t hear back from your neighbor about it, it might be a smart decision to also notify them in written form in case you run into any legal trouble down the road.

In these kinds of situations, it’s important to be kind, neighborly, and respectful. As long as you’re letting them know about their dead tree in a courteous manner and can prove you’ve notified them later if asked, chances are you won’t be responsible for any damages that might arise from this problem.

 

“What If My Tree Falls on My Neighbor’s Property?”

In this case, many people often assume that since it is their tree that fell down, they should file a claim on behalf of their neighbor; however, claims should only be filed by the property owners. Even if your neighbor’s garage is hit with your tree, it’s still their claim. Offering to help with the tree removal and/or their deductible is a nice gesture, but it is not required.

 

“My Tree Just Fell on My Property. What Should I Do First?”

In this case it’s best to call your agent immediately to let them know what happened. If your agent is unavailable or offices are closed, first take photographs and do what you can to safely remove the tree from the house to prevent further damage. If the fallen tree caused a hole in the roof, tarp or patch it as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the interior of your home.

 

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