Is my neighbor liable when his tree damages my house?


Attorney Tom Olsen: All right. So, from this text, it appears that this tree sits on the neighbor’s property, okay? So, the law is this -- is that if that tree is completely healthy and it simply falls down by act of God or a branch falls down and by act of God and it falls and damages the neighbor’s house -- let’s say, it’s my tree and it falls and damages my neighbor’s house, I am not liable for that act of God.
Now, if the tree sits on my property and the tree has a rotten branch or rotten base and my neighbor comes over, talks to me, or sends me a certified mail letter and says, “Hey, that tree that sits on your property, Tom, has a rotten branch or a rotten base and if it falls down, I’m going to sue you for any damages it caused my property,” that would be correct.
So what this text is saying is that his neighbor’s tree has already caused $5,000 damages to our texter’s property. The neighbor has given him for permission to do whatever he wants to with the tree but the neighbor wants him to pay for it. So from the texter’s perspective, “Hey, it may be a rotten tree, it may be your neighbor’s obligation to do something about it but at the end of the day, it may be more practical if you either bite the bullet in that and pay for it to be chopped down if you need to.” You’re not obligated to but if your neighbor gives you permission to go on their property and cut it down, that may be the best option for you.

Chrissy: And I do have just a quick follow up question for you and that is you said that your initial scenario is that if the tree is healthy and it’s over -- there’s nothing that you can do but would your insurance company take care of that or do you have to do it out of your private --

Attorney Tom Olsen: No, if your neighbor’s tree comes down and damages your property, your insurance company should pay for the repairs whether that tree was healthy or whether it was rotten.

Chrissy: Okay, just wanted to know.

Attorney Tom Olsen: But you always wanted to avoid, you don’t want to be in a situation where you have to file a claim for your insurance company. So if you go outside and you see that your neighbor -- there’s a tree on your neighbor’s property, you can see that it’s got a rotten branch or a dead branch, if that thing comes down, it’s going to hit your house, you would want to notify your neighbor in writing and keep a copy of that writing that, “Hey, you’ve got a rotten branch there. If it comes down, I’m suing you for it.” Thank you, Chrissy.