What happens if your neighbor's tree falls on your property?


Attorney Tom Olsen: Hey Rob on the radio show yesterday, on the Saturday radio show, I had a phone call about a tree – I thought we'd might take a minute to remind people about the Tree Law, because for him he knew that the next door neighbor's tree was dead. That was clear. He sent a letter by certified mail to the neighbor but didn't really know what to expect. What happens if your neighbor’s tree falls and damages your property or home?

Attorney Rob Solomon: Well you know this is one area of Florida law that we have to thank our Florida Supreme Court, which usually speaks in a high highfalutin Latin phrases, but they actually came up with a way to advance this problem in simple terms. And the advancement that they made is contained in a Florida case in which they determined, first of all, that if you have a tree, a live tree, perfectly good tree that's on your neighbor's property and the limb overhangs your property, you own that limb at the property line.

It's such a practical solution. It's almost shocking that lawyers came up with it. And so effectively what that means is that you can cut that limb at the line. You can't go cross the line, you cut it, you own it, you got to pay for the cutting. But it's effectively as if you own that limb. That is so helpful and surprising from our court.

Now, that doesn't really solve the problem with what about a tree that's entirely on a neighbor's property, it's a dead tree, it's leaning in your direction, there's nothing to cut on your side, what about that? And that falls into a slightly different area of Florida law because that's not a trespass onto your property. What it is a negligence action waiting to happen.

And so when that kind of thing occurs and somebody negligently permits that tree to remain on their property and not do anything about it, they're taking on liability. Your role as you, I think, aptly pointed out is to make sure that there is a paper trail that you brought that to the attention of your neighbor: This is dangerous. You need to do something about it. So that if it, God forbid, it should ever come down and hurt somebody or damage somebody, that you are on record as having said that, as having brought that to the attention of your neighbor.

Attorney Tom Olsen: And so I wonder then if that tree actually came down and did damage the property owner whose building was damaged would probably file a claim with their insurancecompany. But you think that letter would allow the insurance company to pursue the neighbor?

Attorney Rob Solomon: Yes. That is exactly what happens. Insurance policies are really interesting on this topic and there literally has to be some damage to a building in order for the insurance to kick in. So if the tree just falls down and lands in the person's yard, you’re going to find you have a hard time collecting against your policy.

On the other hand, it allows that company to go back against the neighbor, if there is damage they would pay for it, it's a house. But they can go back against that damage in trying to collect any deductible. And also to get paid back for what they had to pay to the homeowner.

Attorney Tom Olsen: So part of what you're saying and we know in Florida law is that here in the state of Florida that as far as your property lines are concerned, your property lines go down to the center of the earth, and they go up in the space and anything hanging over your property lines is yours to do with as you please. But you can't go in your neighbor's property and trim those trees.

Attorney Rob Solomon: Yes. And I always advise people because we live in a world with neighbors. And so this cutting things down without having a conversation is not particularly good neighborly relations. And so many problems can be solved through communications and treating people well. So when you can do that first, please do that first.