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Dead tree on neighbor's property is threatening my barn...

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  • Dead tree on neighbor's property is threatening my barn...

    Kind of just what the title says. I have a neighbor, with whom I am on friendly terms, however there has been some tension over property lines (on which this tree is sitting). We both agree the dead tree is on his land, but just barely. If it were to fall, it would likely take out my barn. I want it gone, because it's probably 50-60' high and completely dead, so the next time we have a good wind, it's probably going to go. I'm kind of surprised it didn't bite the dust with the storms we had today, but I'm sure the roots are deep.

    So who is responsible for it? Since it's on his property, I assume he can do with it what he will. If it falls on my barn, will I have a leg to stand on to get him to cover my insurance deductible? If I want to cut it down before it falls because it's threatening my barn, should I be footing the bill? Should we be doing a halvsies thing? Should I request he take it down and foot the entire bill? He has no structures anywhere near it, only open lawn.

    Neighbor has mentioned taking it down, but hasn't made any move to do so, so I'm wondering how to go about nudging him, yet still getting him to pay for the removal (or do it himself, as I believe he has the capabilities to do so) since it is his tree.

  • #2
    Do you know anyone who cuts and burns firewood? If so, would they be willing to do a friendly offer of asking the neighbor to take it down for them so long as they get the firewood?


    • #3
      If it squashes your barn it is your insurance, not his, that will pay. I'd be up for trying anything to get him to agree to take it down - perhaps offer to split the cost?
      What's wrong with you?? Your cheese done slid off its cracker?!?!


      • #4
        first -- right now go take pictures to document the trees location and condition
        Last edited by SGray; Jan. 30, 2013, 12:58 PM. Reason: typo
        Nothing says "I love you" like a tractor. (Clydejumper)

        The reports states, “Elizabeth reported that she accidently put down this pony, ........, at the show.”


        • #5
          I don't know if this was a locality thing, but a friend of mine was forced to cut down trees along her property line because if they had fallen, they might fall across the neighbor's driveway. The neighbor complained to the county government that he and his wife would be trapped if the trees fell, and the county agreed and made my friend remove the trees. Granted, my friend and the neighbor were not on good terms at that point.


          • #6
            It may be as simple as not having it be on the top of his to-do list.

            Most tree removal companies give free estimates. Maybe he'd be happy to let you call some companies and get some estimates? Then from there you can figure out what to do next.

            Depending upon the tree, and the location, the net cost may not be so much after the wood is salvaged, probably a few hundred bucks. If it's worrying you, I'd consider offering to split the cost of the removal, just because the time and hassle in having it fall on your barn would be substantial even if you were made whole in dollars.

            Legally you can probably compel him to take it down at his expense, but again that will cost you something in time, money, and goodwill.

            Note also that getting the tree to a safe condition (ie leaving a big stump and a yard full of debris ) is substantially less expensive than complete removal of the tree, the branches, and the stump.

            If you're worried about the tree falling on your barn, I would not want the neighbor to remove it himself. There's an art to making them fall where you want them to, and a fair amount of extra insurance as well. Better to have someone who has lots of equipment and does it every day do it.
            If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


            • #7
              I had a similar situation with a dead tree, more specifically a very large dead limb off of said tree had fallen but stopped just short of my barn and was resting on other live tree limbs. This tree was technically on county property. I had a tree service out to get it removed but they really didn't want to do it because it was not "my" tree. Then I had the county out and they wanted to remove it, but because of the red tape they couldn't do it quickly and actually advised me to let it fall and have the county replace my barn when it did fall.
              I was too worried to just let if fall on my barn. Just when I was about to have it done and foot the bill, the county called and removed it.

              I'm not sure what leg you have to stand on if it were to fall and you want him to pay the deductible. That is not to mean you will not have a case, but I just don't know.

              I would just do it and tell the neighbor I would like him to pay at least half and hope for the best. In my situation I just could not risk harming my horse, but the thought of a free new barn compliments of the county was nice! I'm certain others on here will have better advice than me.


              • #8
                His tree, his land, his responsibility (for both removal and for consequences resulting from its fall).

                If it damages your barn he is liable for the damage. If your insurance pays you then it's likely they subrogate and seek reimbursement from him or his insurance. Most companies will also collect deductibles or co-pays at the same time. They would not seek compensation for you for uninsured property that might be damage at the same time.

                If there is a clear threat to power lines then call the power company. They can generally take action, if they wish to do so. But they don't have an obligation to do so.

                This is a "dicey" situation but it's best resolved by negotiation vice involving The Authorities or third parties.

                Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


                • #9
                  OP doesn't give a location. Local law always applies.
                  In a similar situation in GA, my insurance would have covered my loss minus the deductable. I was advised to inform & document the tree condition to the other land owner. In the event of a loss to me, I would have recourse for the full amount from the landowner. He being aware of a hazard and being negligent in its mitigation.

                  A healthy tree blown over is a different situation.
                  Equus makus brokus but happy


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Guilherme View Post
                    His tree, his land, his responsibility (for both removal and for consequences resulting from its fall).

                    If it damages your barn he is liable for the damage. If your insurance pays you then it's likely they subrogate and seek reimbursement from him or his insurance. Most companies will also collect deductibles or co-pays at the same time. They would not seek compensation for you for uninsured property that might be damage at the same time.
                    Not necessarily, a tree on the far side of my property came down on my neighbors minivan a couple years back. Called my insurance agent (State Farm in Minnesota) and he said we are not responsible. Neighbor's vehicle was in his driveway so it was his responsibility. Never heard another word about it.

                    I'm wondering if because you and he have discussed this you might have a leg to stand on. I would call your homeowners/farm insurance agent and ask them.


                    • #11
                      mp - sorry you are having to deal with this looming threat. a good book that could help you start on what to do:


                      local laws are also very specific on this type of thing and absolutely apply.
                      * trying hard to be the person that my horses think i am


                      • #12
                        If a living tree falls into your yard because of a storm, it's your insurance that pays and your deductible. Some policies only cover damaged structures (and do not cover the cost to clean it up, fence damage, etc). Generally if you can prove that it was a dead tree, then his insurance would have to cover it as a form of negligence, because he is not performing basic property maintenance. (But it could take some messy wrangling to get them to pay up. You might ask your agent if they would make that claim for you-- you file with them, and then they go after his insurer).

                        The insurance aspects are a good foundation for the next discussion. Show the neighbor that you'd have no coverage, so that is why the situation so important and urgent to you. To soften the approach, you can use your insurance company as the Bad Guy in this conversation (They told me I'd have to file a negligence claim in order to rebuild my barn! I told him I would *never* want to do that but he said I didn't have any other options!) Bring quotes for taking down the tree and bring those with you, and push for a date certain to get it done.
                        I might offer to share some of the costs, especially if any of the tree hangs over the property line. And I'd definitely offer my labor to help with the small branch cleanup after it's taken down. In short, I'd do everything possible to find a good-neighbor solution.

                        If things get ugly, rather than wait for it to fall down, common law gives you the right (at your expense) to cut back any part of that tree that hangs over your property line. (with the limitation that you can't do it in a way that would kill the tree--but if you can prove it's already dead that's a non-issue). The cutting could only be done from your side of the property line unless you had his permission. Lots of risks with this approach, apart from the bad feelings--when the tree eventually falls down and If it damages something on his property, he might try to blame you because you trimmed it improperly, made it unbalanced. Definitely get expert opinions before you go that route.


                        • Original Poster

                          Thanks all for the suggestions.
                          At this point, worst case scenario would be it takes out part of my barn and brand-spanking new Ramm fencing. However, I'm in a little bit of a time crunch because I hope to bring my last horse home in a few months (after he recovers from an injury) and he's going to occupy that stall that is in the direct line of potential fire. I need that tree down before he gets home, or else I'm going to wig out every time we have a thunderstorm, which is often here in the Gulf area.

                          Originally posted by Doberpei View Post
                          I don't know if this was a locality thing, but a friend of mine was forced to cut down trees along her property line because if they had fallen, they might fall across the neighbor's driveway.
                          Maybe I'll check on that. Because if it falls on my barn, it also falls smack across my driveway and only way out of my house.

                          Originally posted by SGray View Post
                          first -- right now go take pictures to document the trees location and condition
                          Duh. Thanks for that reminder.

                          Originally posted by poltroon View Post
                          If you're worried about the tree falling on your barn, I would not want the neighbor to remove it himself. There's an art to making them fall where you want them to, and a fair amount of extra insurance as well. Better to have someone who has lots of equipment and does it every day do it.
                          This is kind of what I'm afraid of. My neighbor on the other side felled a tree that was right next to my house just a couple months ago, a very much live 80'+ evergreen. It had only a small window in which to fall that didn't take out my house or his super large barn/shed. It worked and fell where it was supposed to, but I spent the whole time yelling in my head "THIS IS A BAD IDEA!". But it was on his property, and he was determined to take it down himself.

                          I know that if I contact a pro to do it (which I would very much prefer), all of the neighbors would "gather together" to "save me some money" (that I do not have a problem spending!) and fell the tree themselves. And these neighbors do not take no for an answer, Lord have I tried. The "elder" one, who is 75+, threatened me with a switch last time I tried to say no to him burying an old septic tank in my front yard for me (instead of me hiring someone). Plus, as I said, this tree is not on my property so I can't tell them not to do it themselves. (right?)

                          I plan to have a tree monkey come out to assess two other trees on my property, so I suppose I can have him eyeball the dead one and see if he can estimate it. Then I may be able to go to the neighbor and say "hey, I'm having a tree monkey take down these two trees, he said he could do yours for $$$, you in?". From the responses it sounds like that may be my best bet. Maybe the neighbor will say yes if the guy is already going to be right next door....

                          Managing these neighbor relations has been the most stressful part of home ownership thus far, and I've had some pretty spectacular house disasters in the last 5 months.


                          • #14
                            I am in RI so I don't know if the same rules will apply to you, but this happened to someone I know. She did not document asking the owner to remove the tree, though she had asked him, and he had refused. The tree fell and it didn't do much damage but she had to pay to have it removed and that cost her a lot of cash. If she had called her insurance company when she saw the doomed tree looming, and given them a heads up, and supplied photos and documentation of asking the other property owner to remove the tree before it fell, then she would not have had to pay to remove the tree.

                            So I recommend calling your insurance company now. You don't want to pay the deductible and they don't want to pay the rest! I believe if it's a known issue that could have been prevented, you won't be held at fault and they will go after the insurance company of the other landowner where the tree resides before falling.

                            Definitely explain that you have a barn and livestock at risk. Take photos and make them available to the insurance companies. If your neighbour has email, email them and request once more that they remove the tree, then print a copy of the email and any replies your neighbour sends. Email is a lot easier to document than a casual chat out by the mailboxes.

                            Custom Painted Saddle Pads and Ornaments


                            • Original Poster

                              Starhouse, that sounds like a very reasonable plan, and one I will follow this afternoon.

                              Originally posted by Starhouse View Post
                              If your neighbour has email, email them and request once more that they remove the tree, then print a copy of the email and any replies your neighbour sends. Email is a lot easier to document than a casual chat out by the mailboxes.
                              But, how do handle this part if the neighbor is an older gentleman with no email? I have learned quickly, and to my dismay, that 'round these parts, these things are discussed over a cup of hot tea on a Saturday morning. I don't know how I document telling the neighbor to take down the tree, short of secretly recording me having the conversation with him again.


                              • #16
                                I am not sure, and maybe your ins. company would have a good recommendation. Re-reading your first post, this guy sounds like the genuine type who likes to do things by the book. Maybe have a heart-to-heart with him, bring him some cookies and have a chat over tea if that's how you do it in your area , then say, "Mr. Neighbour, I know we have talked briefly about that tree outside and you mentioned you were planning on having it removed. Have you called and gotten an estimate yet? I am going to have Affordable Tree Company out to look at a couple of trees on my property that look unstable. Would you like me to have the company look at your tree and give you an estimate on its removal while they're out here? We may get a better rate if they do both jobs at once and then it would mitigate the big mess that the tree would cause if it fell on my barn. Plus I'd feel a lot better about the safety of my horses! I can handle all the legwork for you as long as you don't mind Affordable Tree Company taking a look at that tree. I will let you know what they say and if you'd like to have them take it down, I can arrange the appointment for you also."

                                So here you are offering to do the legwork (still a LOT less legwork than if the tree fell on your barn and you had to deal with that mess!) but still saying he's got to pay for it, but you will make it as easy as writing a cheque for the work.

                                If he truly intends to have the tree taken down, he shouldn't be able to say no to this offer.

                                In the mean time, though, chat with your ins. company and let them know what's going on and that there has been a delay getting the tree down, causing a bit of concern about the safety of the buildings on your property.

                                Custom Painted Saddle Pads and Ornaments


                                • #17
                                  If it bothers you so much and you are the only one who will be impacted if it were to fall, then you go to your neighbor and tell him of your concerns and that YOU will pay to have it cut down and cleaned up. I bet you can find and pay an experienced person to cut it down and someone else who needs firewood to clean it up for free.

                                  If he agrees get the whole deal in writing.


                                  • #18
                                    Def. call your insurance company. If the tree is dead, he's aware it's dead and does nothing to remove the hazard he could be in violation of his insurance policy and they could refuse coverage. I went through this years ago when a neighbor's tree fell, took out my back fence and came crashing through my patio door. Guess who got stuck with the bill?

                                    It shouldn't be your responsibility, but if you can afford it offer to pay to have it removed yourself. That's much, much easier than fighting with an insurance company later.


                                    • #19
                                      If the tree overhangs your property, you are allowed to remove the portion of it that is "on" your property. So if there is one great big branch looming over your barn, you can get rid of it yourself without consulting the neighbor. But frankly I would try and work it out - it doesn't sound like you're on bad terms.
                                      I realize that I'm generalizing here, but as is often the case when I generalize, I don't care. ~ Dave Barry


                                      • #20
                                        I agree with everyone saying to check your local laws and speak with insurance. I also agree that it may not be a priority on his list or it is possible that he cannot financially afford to do so. This isn't a cheap project in most areas, we had trees removed here and I still cringe at the price. Of course I get why it's so much but it doesn't make it any easier on the wallet! If you're having trees from your property removed by someone I would get an estimate and ask the neighbor if he would be willing to have him remove it then. You may also have to explain to him that this would be a lot more beneficial to him than if it falls and insurance finds out that he knew it was dead and at risk.
                                        The one good thing about repeating your mistakes is that you know when to cringe.