“Homeowners and commercial property owners often do not understand the importance of maintaining vegetation, especially trees, and this is especially important if they have neighbors whose homes or offices could be damaged by falling branches or the trees themselves.” , observe La Jolla, Calif. , attorney Evan Walker, whose law practice focuses on property damage and personal injury.
“When buying a house, the last thing considered is the additional cost of garden maintenance. With home prices skyrocketing, few real estate agents will tell buyers, ‘And don’t forget, you’ll need to maintain these trees, and the annual costs will be significant.’”
And how significant is significant?
“Depending on the size of the property, the number and types of trees, and the proximity to adjoining houses or other structures, the annual or semi-annual expense of hiring tree trimmers can run into the thousands of dollars.
“But that’s usually not the most critical problem,” Walker says. “Is responsibility. Failure to maintain your trees in a safe condition through negligence invites litigation when, as a direct result of this negligence or intentional behavior, property damage, personal injury or death occurs.
Most attorneys recall cases discussed in law school under the heading “Land Owners and Occupants,” where jury awards skyrocketed when owners were shown to have actual knowledge of the danger their trees posed to neighbors, but chose to ignore them. that.
When your neighbors are greedy
When a neighbor’s tree falls on your propertyGuess who has to file the insurance claim, pay the deductible, and hope their premiums don’t go up because of it in the future? That would be you. Unless you can establish that the neighbors knew of the dangerous condition and failed to remedy it.
This column has heard from so many readers over the years who live in fear of their neighbors trees falling. Many of the concerned readers who contacted me had already hired state-certified arborists whose reports warned of imminent danger of major property damage or injury. sure it will happen, and had given copies of the reports to his neighbors. However, the neighbors still refused to take responsibility for the problem.
I have often phoned these negligent neighbors on behalf of my readers, urging them to do the right thing and cut down or remove the trees, only to hear “No! I’m not paying for it, and I don’t care what the arborist says. Tell your reader to pay for the work!”
In several cases, in a matter of days, what was predicted to happen happened. The resulting litigation frequently revealed that these negligent owners had the word “Penny pincher” stamped on their foreheads: overgrown yards, dilapidated houses, and bank accounts stuffed with thousands of dollars.
I’ve also found that some of my readers are just as greedy as their stingy neighbors, as an email from a New Jersey reader made clear.
“My name is Michelle. There are dead trees right behind my fence and the owners ignore me. I need help and I’m at the point where I don’t know where to turn. I am not receiving much help from my municipality. Can you help me?”
So, I called Michele and learned:
- She has a report from an arborist that warns, “These trees are as tall as a telephone pole and are an imminent threat of falling on your house.”
- The neighbor received a copy of the report, initially promised to remove the trees, then refused.
- It will cost $1,700 for the job.
- Your local government officials have turned a blind eye.
- Your source of income? “I feel extremely comfortable with the dividends on my investments.”
- Have you consulted an attorney for a letter demanding that the dangerous condition be remedied immediately or will a lawsuit follow? “No, they charge too much!”
Where to go for help
“If it were me, I would alert my city or county authorities, law enforcement, code enforcement, and elected representative. As it is a human interest story, local television and newspapers should be notified. Also, I would contact my own homeowners insurance company and notify them of this potential claim, as that is my obligation under the policy.”
When Michele told me that a consultation with a lawyer It costs too much – Seeing as she clearly has the financial means and obvious need for legal help, I told her, “You are being unreasonable, unfair to yourself, and exposing visiting friends and family to a known risk of injury, and then you would be sued.” !
“Upon receiving the letter from your lawyer, these stingy neighbors will realize that you have the ability to drag them to court. I would expect them to react very differently, so after we talk, schedule a consultation with an attorney, please!”
What happens if you cut down the trees without permission?
I asked Evan, “What if, out of reasonable fear, the trees were about to fall, Michele hires tree trimmers and without permission They enter the property, making the situation safe and the neighbors sue her for trespassing. What would your defense be?
“Your attorney would raise the Defense of Necessity, explaining to a judge or jury that the law of trespass recognizes times when, to preserve the greater good, is actually allowed necessary – transfer. we call this an affirmative defense that says: ‘Yes, I entered illegally but I was justified in doing so since it was an emergency’”.
Evan concluded our interview with two sayings, one 500 years old and from England: “Don’t be sensible and foolish.” And the other credited to Benjamin Franklin: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Lawyer, Author of “You and the Law”
After attending Loyola University School of Law, H. Dennis Beaver joined California’s Kern County District Attorney’s Office, where he established a Consumer Fraud section. He works in general law practice and writes a column in a syndicated newspaper, “you and the law.” Through his column, he offers readers in need of practical advice his help for free. “I know it sounds corny, but I love being able to use my education and experience to help, just to help. When a reader contacts me, it’s a gift.”