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Liability Laws for Trees Fallen on a Neighbor's Property

By Noel Shankel
Trees should add peace and beauty to your property, not arguments.
Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images

Nobody enjoys having a dispute with the next-door neighbor, especially one that can result in a lawsuit. Damages from a neighbor's fallen tree can create unwanted arguments, and these arguments can intensify if neither side understands the law.

Let's Be Reasonable

Negligence will play a factor in determining liability after a tree falls. If the tree owner ignores visible rot that might cause the tree to fall during a strong wind, she may be held liable for any damages caused by the fallen tree. If a well maintained tree falls due to an Act of God, such as a tornado, she will not be held liable.

Ownership Matters

Determining the owner of the tree will clarify who is liable in the event that it falls. Whichever side of the property line the trunk stands on establishes the rightful owner. Contact a land surveyor to determine the exact boundary line between two properties. The land surveyor can locate property line markers, usually iron pipes, embedded into the ground.


If you notice your neighbor's tree is in a dangerous condition, bring it to his attention. Some tree owners may not be aware of the problem until someone else points it out. Always remember that you have the legal right to trim branches that cross over into your yard back to the property line. Those hanging branches can cause property damage if they fall, and you do not need consent from the tree owner to trim them.


About the Author


Based in California, Noel Shankel has been writing and directing since 2002. His work has been published in "Law of Inertia Magazine." Shankel has a Bachelor of Arts in film and writing from San Francisco State University.