Timing is everything when it comes to trees only looking like they will fall vs. trees that have fallen. Hopefully you’re reading this before ANYTHING falls. This is also a topic that could, if any property damage happens due to a fallen tree, involve insurance. So, we brought in an expert: Ron Osborne of Farmer’s Insurance, out of Kent, WA.
We asked Ron about trees, responsibility and insurance and he relayed a story on this very topic.
Here’s what happened:
A woman saw that her neighbor’s very tall tree had a damaged limb after a storm.
She was on good terms with this neighbor, but was nervous about this damaged limb as it looked as though it could break off and damage the fence that separated the properties. She asked this neighbor about it directly, as they were on good terms.
The neighbor responded that, “It didn’t look that bad,” to her and she wasn’t going to spend the money to bring out a tree service.
The woman didn’t really know what to do, but didn’t trust that the neighbor would take care of the situation, and also didn’t want to incur damages, or worse, injuries. So she called her insurance agent, Ron, and asked what she should do.
Ron said, “It’s all about getting it in writing.”
But the woman isn’t a Certified Arborist, right?
How can she tell whether or not a tree is “dangerous?”
These are the steps Ron suggested she take:
- She needs a vetted expert to make an assessment.
In writing. A Certified Arborist can make a professional assessment that a tree is indeed “dangerous” and can give that estimate & assessement in writing. Be sure to make a copy and keep it with your records.
- And deliver that assessment to the neighbor in a way that ensures receipt.
Ron suggests delivery by certified mail. In a court, which hopefully it will never get that far, having a verbal conversation can be forgotten or denied. But with certified mail delivery, both the sender and receiver get a receipt.
Taking these two steps will place the oweness and responsibility squarely with the tree owner. Before anything falls.
Of course, it’s ideal to be on good terms with your neighbors.
If at all possible, have the conversations about trees and damages before any big storms or broken limbs happen.
Bear in mind
Tree service fees aren’t always what people want to spend their money on.
So, if you’re having a hard conversation about a potentially dangerous tree, try to understand that point.
Also, it could be that your neighbor gets cranky upon 1. having to have this conversation and 2. having to come up with the money to cover the service fees.
And definitely check in with your own insurance agent.
Let’s say, hypothetically, the damaged limb from the story above wasn’t noticed by the woman next door. She just didn’t see that the damaged limb could fall and break through the fence.
And the branch fell.
And broke the fence.
You’ll still need to have a conversation with the neighbor. And you’ll each want to speak with your respective insurance agents as well to sort it all out. Don’t forget to ask about and talk about the hauling away of the cut limbs or branches.
One thing Ron mentioned was to be sure to have your insurance agent specify potentially dangerous trees when you’re purchasing a home or property. Have a line item in your spending plan and save a few dollars each month for maintaining your trees too.
A big repair or emergency cutting can start at several hundred dollars, so don’t be blindsided by the trees growing in your own backyard. Maintenance is always less expensive than emergency repairs or servicing.
If you possibly can
Keep the conversations with your neighbors open. Whether you have a great big pine or fir in your backyard, or your neighbor does, what happens with trees can affect the neighbors. Try to have candid communication and just be sure they know you care.
If you notice a potentially dangerous tree or broken limbs and branches that could fall and damage your property, give us a call.
We’re available to give estimates and make assessments and can give you clear information while we’re on site together. Thanks for keeping us in mind.