What happens if my neighbor’s tree falls and there is damage? Who pays for the damage caused when trees or tree branches fall? 

With the increase of wild weather this Spring, we’re getting an influx of questions from readers whose trees fall and cause damage to their own property and to their neighbors. They’re also concerned about what happens if their neighbor’s trees fall and damage their property. Here’s the latest question. We answered almost an identical question about neighbor tree damage in 2019

Q: A neighbor’s tree falls into the yard, taking out a fence. Now what?

Who is responsible for the tree removal and the damage to the fence? I’ve been looking online and have seen different responses.

A: There is almost more information missing in your email than you provided. With so little detail, we can understand why you’d find any number of different answers to your question. So, here are a few thoughts about how this issue might play out.

Your tree falls and damages your own fence

First, if a tree on your property falls and damages your fence, that’s on you. You’d have the obligation to either fix or remove the damaged fence. In this situation, we’d suggest that you look over your homeowner’s insurance policy to see if your policy covers you for the removal of the tree and the damage to the fence.

Unfortunately, in this scenario it’s likely that your homeowner’s insurance will not cover you for the removal of the tree or the damage to the fence. Many homeowner’s insurance policies might cover you for the removal of the tree only if the tree damages your home or a related structure on your home. Fences are often not considered a related structure.

Your tree falls and damages the neighbor’s fence

Now, let’s say your tree falls and damages your neighbor’s fence. In this scenario, there are a number of factors that would go into figuring out if you might have to pay for the removal of the tree and repair or replacement of the fence. But seeing that your neighbor has a claim against you, your insurance company might cover you for the repair or replacement of the fence. But you’d still have to pay your deductible and you’d likely have to pay for the tree removal. Unless you have an extremely low deductible, in which case you’ve probably got an extremely expensive homeowners insurance policy, this is probably all coming out of your pocket.

You’re obligated to keep your trees trimmed or remove dead trees

Now, let’s talk trees. Tall, leafy, green, they’re an asset to almost every property. Still, trees eventually die and when they do, homeowners have the obligation to take down the tree before it causes damage to property – yours or your neighbors.

Back to your question. If you knew your tree was dead or was in danger of falling down and you did nothing about it, and it damaged your neighbor’s fence, it’s easy to see how your neighbor would hold you financially responsible for any damage. Especially if that damage could have been avoided by the timely takedown of the tree.

Crazy storm? Tree damage? Your insurance company will likely step up

And, then there’s the weather. A really bad storm (think tornados, hurricanes or even a microburst) could take down a healthy, live tree. When weather conditions cause a tree to come down, you’re likely not responsible for that damage.

If you’ve got trees, you should know what your specific homeowners insurance policy says it will cover when trees come down and cause damage to your property or your neighbors. Be sure to read the fine print. For some help, consider reading the following:

Read more about neighbor issues:

Tips for Handling Claims When Your Neighbor Has No Insurance

Trees, Neighbors and Insurance Coverage: What You Need to Know

Neighbor’s Tree Fell on My House – Who Pays for Damages?