Are you too cheap to care for your trees and putting your property in danger? This is a common problem that sometimes doesn’t get addressed. An attorney who specializes in personal injury and property damage can help you decide what next.
“Many homeowners and commercial property owners don’t understand the importance maintaining vegetation – primarily trees. This is especially true if their neighbors have homes or offices that could be damaged by falling branches, or the trees themselves,” says Evan Walker, La Jolla, Calif. attorney, whose practice focuses on personal injury and property damage.
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The added expense of maintaining a yard is something that should not be overlooked when buying a house. With homes selling at an all-time high, few agents will inform buyers that they will have to maintain the trees and will incur significant annual costs.
How significant is that?
The cost of hiring tree cutters can vary depending on the size of the property and the number of trees. It also depends on the proximity of other structures or homes.
Walker points out that “But that’s not always the most critical problem.” It is liability. He emphasizes that negligence in maintaining your trees in a safe state can lead to litigation.
Many lawyers will recall cases that were discussed in law school under “Owners & Occupiers Of Land.” Jury awards have gone through the roof after it was revealed that the owners knew of the danger posed by their trees but chose not to address it.
If Your Neighbors are Misers
Guess who is responsible for filing the insurance claim and paying the deductible if a neighbor’s tree falls onto your property? You would be that person. Unless you can prove that neighbors knew about the dangerous condition but ignored it.
Over the years, this column has received many calls from concerned readers who fear for their neighbors’ trees. Many of those who reached out to me were already certified arborists by the state. Their reports indicated that there was a danger of serious injury or property damage and they had provided copies to their neighbors. The neighbors refused to solve the problem.
I called my neighbors often to urge them to take care of their trees. I won’t pay for it and I don’t care what the arborist tells me. Tell your reader to get the job done!
Many times, the predicted outcome happened within days. These negligent homeowners were often found guilty of negligence in court. Their foreheads were covered with the words “Miser”: overgrown yards, houses in disrepair, and bank accounts worth thousands of dollars.
As an email from a New Jersey reader showed, I’ve also found my readers just as miserly than their cheapskate neighbor.
Michele is my name. The owners are neglecting me because there are dead trees behind my fence. I am in dire need of help and don’t know where I should go. My township is not providing much assistance. Could you please help me?
I called Michele to learn
An arborist has given her a report warning that these trees are “as tall as a telephone pole and pose an imminent danger of falling on her home.”
A copy of the report was sent to the neighbor, who initially agreed to remove the trees, but then refused.
- The job will cost $1,700
- Local government officials in her area have turned a blindeye.
Her source of income is? “I feel extremely content with the dividends I receive from my investments.”
A letter requesting that dangerous conditions be addressed immediately or a suit be filed against her has been sent to an attorney. “No, they charge too high!”
Where can I get help?
“If I were you, I would notify my local authorities, law enforcement, and code enforcement as well as my elected representative. Local television and newspapers should be notified as this is a human-interest story. I would also contact my homeowners insurance company to inform them about the potential claim. This is my obligation under my policy.
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Michele said that it was too expensive to consult with a lawyer, despite her having the financial resources and apparent need for legal assistance. I replied: “You’re being unreasonable and unfair to yourself. You are exposing your family and friends to a known danger of injury. And then you would be sued!”
These cheapskate neighbors will see that they can be dragged to court by you after receiving your lawyer’s notice. They will likely react differently to my expectations, so please schedule a consultation with an lawyer after we speak.
What if you get the trees trimmed without permission?
Evan asked me: “What if, out of a reasonable concern that the trees might fall, Michele hires tree-trimmers to enter her property without permission, rendering it safe, and the neighbors sue her as trespass.” What would be her defense?
“Her lawyer would raise Defense of Necessity and explain to the judge or jury that the law of Trespass recognizes times in which it is permissible, in fact necessary, to trespass. This is called an affirmative defense. It states, “Yes, I did indeed trespass, but it was justified as this was an emergency.”
Evan ended our interview with two old English sayings. One is 500 years old, and the other is from Benjamin Franklin.
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- About the Author
- Dennis Beaver, Esq.
- Attorney at Law, Author of “You and the Law”
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- Dennis Beaver, a graduate of Loyola University School of Law joined California’s Kern County District Attorney’s Office to establish a Consumer Fraud Section. He is a general practitioner of law and writes a syndicated newspaper column called “You and the Law”. He offers free advice to readers who are in dire need of it through his column. It may sound corny, but it is true. I love being able to share my knowledge and experience with others, just to help. It is a gift when a reader contacts you.