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Who pays when a tree falls on my property?

Hurricane Irene left a lot of damage in Virginia. Although the damage was not as great and widespread as caused by Hurricane Isabel, many of us had in excess of ten inches of rain and suffered from many fallen trees. This tree fell in my back yard.

We  previously blogged about issues arising when a neighbor’s vegetation, including trees, encroaches upon our property. In that situation, we can cut the offending vegetation, including roots, back to the common property line. However, if the vegetation is also damaging our property,  the Court can order the complete removal of the offending vegetation and award us compensation for our expenses, including compensation for damages.

After Hurricane Irene, we should visit another question: who pays for damage when my neighbor’s tree falls on my property? Generally speaking, this property law question involves an issue of negligence and insurance. Each situation would require a review of the facts, and a review of your homeowner’s insurance policy, but here is some general guidance:

  • If your neighbor’s tree causes damage to your real or personal property, your homeowner’s insurance will probably pay to repair the damages and remove the tree;
  • If your tree or your neighbor’s tree falls on your property, but hits nothing but the ground, it is probably your responsibility to pay for the tree removal.

Both of these situations can be complicated if you have evidence of negligence regarding your neighbor’s tree. For example, if your neighbor’s tree was dead or diseased, and your neighbor did not remove the tree, you may have a claim that your neighbor breached a duty causing damaging to your property. If your neighbor did not agree with your assessment, the only way to resolve the dispute would be to file a lawsuit.

Obviously because of the prevalence of homeowner’s insurance, tree damage to our property is generally covered by our policy, regardless of the source. However if we were lucky enough to escape property damage when a tree falls on our property, then we are probably financially responsible to pay for the tree removal. You should always check your insurance policy with your agent or with your attorney (depending upon the amount of damage) to see if your policy covers removal and cleanup of debris. If the tree originated from your neighbor’s property, maybe your neighbor would be willing to help pay for the cost of cleanup. Unless the number of fallen trees is extensive, it probably would not be worth the cost of a lawsuit–both the financial cost and the cost to neighborhood relations–to pursue a lawsuit.

How did you handle your fallen tree in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene?


Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law

Williamsburg, Virginia

John Tarley

John Tarley


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John Tarley

John is the firm's managing partner and chairs the firm's small business, zoning, and litigation practice areas.

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Filed under: General Interest, HOA, HOA litigation, John Tarley, Real Estate Litigation, State & Federal Litigation, Unit Owners Association by John Tarley

2 Responses to “Who pays when a tree falls on my property?”

  1. Hi. There are two very tall (80′?) trees in Conservation Area of HOA property behind my house in Colonial Heritage. I am terrified that these trees – one only a foot from my 8-foot-deep property, and the other leaning towards my house – are going to come crashing down on my house during a storm. The trees are “healthy”, but that doesn’t mean they won’t come down. I do not want another battle with my insurance company over damage (I have a claim in on another property), and don’t want to be dropped or have my rates raised because of damage that could have been prevented thru pro-active measures. Is there any way to force the HOA to get permission to take them down? I had to replace siding last month from tree damage. Thank you.

  2. “Force” is maybe too strong a term. These are tough cases when the trees are “healthy” but if you approach the Association with your concerns, they may be willing to take action.

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