Hi, I'm Luc Bouillon and I'm a Broker with Century 21 B.J. Roth Realty, I live and work right here in the City of Barrie.
Here in Barrie we are fortunate to have a lot of green space, including mature trees both on and off our own lots, which some cities just don’t have. But in the last few years with the ice storms in Quebec and this year in Toronto, even though that kind of severe weather hasn’t hit here, we’ve been very fortunate that way, still a client asked me recently;
What happens if a neighbor’s tree falls on my property? Who is responsible and who pays for the damage?
That's a very good question. For most people your home owners insurance is going to cover this. You probably have a $500 dollar deductible so you will have to decide if it's worth it to file a claim, depending on the amount of damage, but if you have something called all perils coverage you might also be able to claim for damage to other items such as a car or RV that were on the property as well.
Now, you might be thinking, it's my neighbor’s tree, he didn't take care of it. Why do I have to file a claim, why should I pay the deductible? Can I sue my neighbor for the damages?
The answer is "not easily". You would first have to prove that your neighbor had prior knowledge of the tree being ill and chose to ignore it. It would be very difficult to assign that. In addition to that, there's language in common law that says "Any person who allows their property to remain in it's natural state, is not responsible to his neighbor for anything left standing or growing on the property". So again, very difficult to assign blame for something like a natural tree to a land owner.
That said, there are things you can do to protect yourself, you can hire the advice of a qualified arborist, and they will come in a do a report on the tree, let you know what the likelihood is of that tree being sick and what you should do about it. You can then talk to your neighbor with that report and hopefully come to a solution amicably, and if not at least you have that report as evidence that you spoke with them in advance.
An arborist can also give you advice on what you can do yourself, to protect yourself against that tree. If the tree is overhanging your property and it's too close to your home, you can trim it back so long as you don't injure the tree in the process. That's a very important distinction to make! You can't go and chop down the tree, and you can't enter your neighbor’s property without permission to trim the tree, but you can trim it back to your property line as long as that isn't going to harm the tree. The arborist will let you know how much is safe to cut back. Of course if you fail to heed this advice and you injure the tree, you've now bright liability on yourself because you have damaged your neighbor’s property. So it's very important to get that qualified advice.
The other question that comes to mind is:
What happens if a free falls on my property that doesn't damage anything, who pays for the removal?
Well on this point you are going to be on your own. A homeowner’s policy for the most part, is not going to cover removal of a tree if there was no damage to the home. You are responsible for either cutting that up and turning it into firewood or paying someone to haul it away.
That said, if your tree falls on your neighbor’s property, does that mean you just close the blinds? Well no. Be a good neighbor and go help with the cleanup. It's still the right thing to do!
I'm Luc Bouillon with Century 21 B.J. Roth Realty Ltd. Right here in the City of Barrie. Thanks for watching.