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I had one of those "double" trees on my property, with a split trunk and one half of it fell during a storm last night and landed on my neighbor's property. This is a big pine tree, like 80 feet high or something like that. Whose responsibility is it to clean it up?

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    This is more of a legal question, but usually your tree, you are on the hook for damage done. A big tree, I might want to look if can sell it for the lumber.
    – crip659
    Commented Mar 10 at 21:37
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    I’m voting to close this question because this is a legal question Commented Mar 11 at 15:20
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    Do not migrate. Law.SE might close it too. "Questions that clearly ask for specific legal advice are off-topic. For more information, see Policy for questions that clearly ask for specific legal advice." The question should be worded in a complete neutral tone, detached from the IRL issue. If OP wants to close here and post there, it's their choice but migration will end poorly. Close it here if you have to close it. Commented Mar 11 at 16:49
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    @bobsbeenjamin I've seen it happen many, many times. Forced migration is bad. Because 1) the question goes to the other site verbatim, with no edits. 2) the user doesn't follow the migration. 3) people on the other side vote on the question and most likely, close it. 4) There's not much difference in what is an appropriate question on the Stack. A single question can FIT SEVERAL SITES. Migrating by fiat causes a ton of confusion and often makes Stackexchange lose an user. It's better to direct the user to close the Q here, and post a new Q there. Commented Mar 12 at 11:53
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    5) the type of EXPERTS the OP wants defines where to post. If he's posting on Home Improvement, he wants an answer from that facet of the prism. Had he posted on, say, Botany.SE, OP might need advice on how to save the tree. I hope you understood what I meant in point #5. Commented Mar 12 at 11:53

4 Answers 4

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In many jurisdictions, a fallen tree is the responsibility of whoever owns the property it fell on, not the responsibility of whoever owns the property it fell from. Often, if a tree on your property falls on your neighbor's house, it is legally your neighbor's problem, not yours.

There can be exceptions if the tree was known to be a hazard before it fell. If a qualified professional like an arborist had deemed the tree unhealthy and a possible risk, you may have liability. You'll of course also have liability if you contributed to the tree coming down, for example, if you try to cut down a tree and crush your neighbor's house in the process. Barring that, however, an otherwise-healthy tree falling during severe weather is an act of God and not your responsibility.

Your neighbor should go through their own insurance. If they can show both that the tree was an unhealthy hazard, and that you knew about it but did nothing, you may be responsible.

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It's your responsibility, legally and in terms of being a good neighbor.

In my experience, it's better not to call the insurance company. Talk to your neighbors and maybe they are willing to help and you can split the firewood between both of you.

The cost of lumber is in the transportation, milling, drying, planing, and transporting the finished product. So the lumber in that tree is worthless sitting there. If it were a black walnut or something else rare and valuable, maybe someone would be willing to pick it up for free . But not for pine.

Around here, if the fallen tree downed power lines, the utility company will pay for it to be cut and removed, to get access.

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    There are folks with portable sawmill equipment who will mill a tree into lumber on site. That's worth considering for most hardwoods, even poplar. Of course you then have to either let the wood dry for quite some time before using it, or do one of the projects that specifically calls for green wood. It's also possible to split a log down to useful rough lumber by hand, though that's a lot more work. The Woodworking stack would be able to tell you more about that. But, yes, your tree equals your responsibility, unless the neighbor is feeling generous.
    – keshlam
    Commented Mar 11 at 5:09
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    I disagree with both the legal and moral aspect of responsibility here. There's no particular reason the owner of a healthy tree that fell on a house should hold more responsibility than the person who bought the house under that tree - the tree falling on the house was unforeseeable either way. It would be odd for one to be able to impose potential liability upon their neighbors by building expensive structures within fall-distance of the property line. That's not how it works, your insurance premium doesn't depend on the rebuild value of your neighbor's house. Commented Mar 11 at 15:31
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    "It's your responsibility, legally" - in many cases this is simply not true Commented Mar 11 at 17:19
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    @keshlam: "your tree equals your responsibility" - this is simply not true in probably the majority of circumstances regarding any situation where insurance is involved. Commented Mar 11 at 17:25
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    Liability also covers accidents on your property which a clever lawyer might argue were partially your fault for not having done something to prevent them. I believe this would be a valid example of that. You want people to sue the insurance company, not you.
    – keshlam
    Commented Mar 12 at 17:00
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Generally speaking, your responsibility. If and only if the damages are significantly more than your deductible, call your insurance company. If you are not sure then:

  • If it hit any structures - shed, house, etc. - then it wll almost certainly be a significant cost
  • If it hit damaged any other trees such that they are now in danger of falling then it will almost certainly be a significant cost
  • Consider the cost to cut up and remove the tree. That can be relatively little if someone is interested in firewood. Or it can be a lot.

Alternatively, you can just let your neighbor call their insurance company. But if you do that be prepared for it to get back to your insurance company anyway, because in the end that's most likely who will be paying for it. 80' on a farm somewhere you just fix the fence. 80' next to a house is a different story.

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    Are you suggesting the first insurance company is going to cover damage to someone else's house that a tree fell on? How is that a named peril? Commented Mar 11 at 14:57
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    @RobertChapin: Homeowners' policies often include liability cover, in addition to insuring the named property. If you think it's not a covered peril, ask whether you think the same in a scenario with the tree falling back onto the landowner's property and crushing a person.
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Mar 11 at 17:54
  • Not "generally speaking", only if you were negligent or irresponsible in maintaining the tree. Commented Mar 11 at 17:54
  • @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact Do you have a citation for "Generally speaking, your responsibility"? It seems to be a contentious point.
    – MackM
    Commented Mar 11 at 19:52
  • No. And maybe I'll edit it a bit, but no time right now. Commented Mar 11 at 20:18
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In situations like this, determining responsibility for the fallen tree and cleanup can depend on various factors including local laws, insurance coverage, and the specifics of the property boundaries. Here's a general breakdown:

  • Property Boundaries:

If the tree was clearly situated entirely on your property, then typically you would bear responsibility for the cleanup, even if it fell onto your neighbor's property during the storm.

  • Negligence:

If the tree fell due to negligence on your part (e.g., failure to maintain it properly, knowing it was a hazard), you may still be responsible for the cleanup, regardless of where it fell. Act of Nature: If the tree fell due to an "act of God" or a natural disaster, such as a severe storm or lightning strike, then responsibility for cleanup might be less clear-cut. In many cases, insurance policies may cover the cost of cleanup and repair, but it's essential to check your policy details.

  • Insurance Coverage:

Homeowner's insurance typically covers damage caused by fallen trees, including cleanup costs and repairs to both your property and your neighbor's property. However, coverage can vary, so it's important to review your policy or consult with your insurance provider to understand your specific coverage.I work for a fence company in Chicago and we see this a lot when a tree falls and damages the neighbors fences. Typically many of the house insurance companies cover the damages.And the one who issues the claim with the owner of the property on which the tree is.

Hope this helps.

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    "then typically you would bear responsibility for the cleanup, even if it fell onto your neighbor's property during the storm.", no typically you would not. Commented Mar 11 at 17:55
  • @Maria Hi Maria, welcome to the site! Do you have a citation for these statements? It seems to be a contentious point. I'm also having trouble understanding, it sounds like under 'Property Boundaries' a tree growing on your property is your problem, even if it falls over. So then how would your negligence change that situation, if you are already liable?
    – MackM
    Commented Mar 11 at 19:54

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