Q: My neighbor has a tree very close to my border that is over 50 years old. It is a really big tree. It is so big I feel that it really belongs in the forest. If it comes down on my house, it will demolish it and could even kill me if I am home.
I have sent my neighbor several letters and even have one, unopened, that she refused to sign for. Is there anything a real estate lawyer or my home insurer could do for me? I live in fear about every big storm that heads our way.
A: Many homeowners have trees on their own properties or on neighbor properties that have the potential to come down and cause severe damage to a nearby property. The real question is whether the tree has a disease or other condition that makes it dangerous. While the tree may be fifty years old, that kind of tree may live another hundred years without issue.
If the tree is property trimmed and does not seem to have any problems, you may not be able to do anything about the tree. You can talk to an arborist to tell you a bit more about the tree and describe the conditions that could cause a tree of that type, size and age to come crashing down. You may find that after talking to the arborist that it would take a truly violent storm to take down that tree, perhaps something with hurricane-force winds.
On the other hand, you may find that the tree does indeed have problems that need to be addressed. Perhaps it is diseased or it is unbalanced, or it has a big limb that was damaged in a recent storm.
If the tree has real issues that can affect you, you might want to talk to a real estate attorney. That attorney can find out if there are any laws or ordinances that are in place that can force the neighbor to trim the tree down or take it down if it has become a hazard.
However, if the tree is in good shape and doesn’t come over onto your property, you might not have any options. If the tree hangs over onto your property, you might find that there are laws in your state that allow you to trim the tree back and away from your home to protect your home. However, you might not be able to prune it back so much that it would kill the tree.
Again, an attorney with experience with neighbor law issues and trees might be able to tell you what your options are under your circumstances.