RE Q&A: Who Pays if a Neighbor’s Tree Falls?

If your neighbor’s tree falls and damages your roof and pool pump, does that neighbor pay for your damages? And who removes the tree?

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Question: My neighbor has a large tree up against our fence with branches hanging over our side of the property line. A storm knocked the tree over, damaging the corner of our roof and destroying our pool pump. Who is responsible for the damage? Who is responsible for removing the fallen tree? – Tomas

Answer: I get many tree-related questions each fall, which provides an excellent opportunity to review the law in my annual tree column.

When it comes to trees crossing a property line, the law requires the affected property owner to protect their property by responsibly trimming the parts of the tree crossing the border. However, the trimming must be done carefully so it does not injure the tree.

Because it is the affected owner’s responsibility to protect their property, if a healthy tree falls or loses a limb in a storm, the responsibility for the repair will fall on the neighbor whose property was damaged.

That said, the law will not protect a tree owner who does not maintain his tree. If the tree that fell on your property was unhealthy, your neighbor who owns the damaged tree would be liable to pay for the repairs to your property.

If the tree is healthy, you will need to have it removed. If it was not, it would be your neighbor’s responsibility.

Either way, you will need to take necessary measures to minimize the damage, such as tarping your roof.

Because your homeowner’s insurance policy may provide protection for this type of storm damage, you should speak with your agent and make a claim.

If your insurance company pays for the repairs, it will want the right to seek reimbursement from your neighbor and may try to collect the damages caused by an unhealthy tree from them. This is called “subrogation” and is a right given to insurance companies in most, if not all, of the insurance policies I have reviewed.

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