Dear Attorney Williams:
During a recent storm, a tree fell from an adjacent property and straddled both properties. I would like to know who is responsible for removing the tree. There is no other damage other than clean up. This is in the State of Florida.—Reader
Most cities have ordinances that point to the liable party in the event a falling tree damages the property of another. Generally, the owner of the tree is negligent if he/she was careless in maintaining the tree. For example, if the tree, which sits on its owner’s property, was rotting, and the owner knew of or was forewarned of the condition, then the owner of the tree is liable if limbs or the tree itself falls onto a neighbor’s property and causes damages.
If the tree falls onto a neighbor’s property as a result of an act of God, however, the owner of the tree may not be liable. The neighbor would be responsible for clean up or repairing any damage to his/her own property. An example of an act of God would be a storm causing a perfectly maintained tree to fall on the roof of a neighbor’s house.
Reader, you should also look to your homeowner’s insurance policy to determine the extent of your coverage in the unlikely event a tree causes more than minor damage to your property.
If you have a legal issue on your mind, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or PO Box 5555, Tallahassee, Florida 32314.