Whose Tree is That? A Property Survey Can Help

Tree falling over shared property line.Among the many reasons for obtaining a property survey, a reoccuring concern of homeowners is, “Who owns this tree?”

Often, homeowners share property lines that are buffered by woods, and the responsibilities of tree maintenance are not exactly clear. (See other reasons people have property surveys).

Though we have seen a wide variety of tree-related concerns, ranging from the neighbor’s leaves and branches falling into the pool to a suspiciously unhealthy tree leaning towards the garage, it often boils down to the same questions: Who pays? Who is responsible? Who owns this tree?

The best authority on this issue is the Connecticut Association of Land Surveyors (CALS). They make a number of key points and suggestions that every homeowner should consider.

5 Suggestions

1. When the tree falls, the first thing to do is file an insurance claim for repairs and cleanup.
Even if your house is undamaged, check to see if your plan covers chopping and hauling. Most plans cover any damage caused during winds and winter storms. However, only some will cover damage unassociated with house damage.

2. Your neighbor is responsible for a tree that falls over a shared property only if you can prove they were aware that their tree was a hazard and refused to remedy the problem.
Regardless of this, your insurance company will restore your property first, and then seek to pursue reimbursement from the neighbor or their insurer if the neighbor was clearly negligent in maintaining the tree.

3. Before the tree falls, write a letter to your neighbor including a description of the problem, photographs, a request for action, and if necessary, an attorney letterhead (to indicate you mean business).
Taking this initial step can prove negligence should your neighbor decide to not remedy the tree of concern.

4. Trim their trees.
If the limbs of their tree hang over your shared property line, you may trim the branches up to the property line, but not cut down the entire tree. Keep in mind that should this trimming kill the tree, your neighbor can pursue a claim against you in civil or small claims court. Before you cut, tell your neighbor what it is you intend to do.

5. Your tree falls; what do you do?
At first, do nothing until their insurance company contacts you. You may not be liable unless you knew or should have known the tree was in hazardous condition. To this extent, it is always a good idea to keep the receipts of any maintenance you have done on trees. These receipts can prove your awareness of an issue and preventative action.

Key Takeaway:

Before taking these steps, knowing where your shared property line is, is a must. In a perfect world, your neighbor will also want to know, and the cost of a survey can be shared. However, prior to taking any action, it is always a good idea to make your intentions known to your neighbors and keep them in the loop.

If you have further questions, concerns, or interests in having your property surveyed, please consider requesting a free quote here.

Reference: "Tree Falls Over Property Line: Who Pays? Who Picks up the Pieces?"
By: Ann Cochran, Houselogic, March 23, 2011