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Who is responsible for dead trees falling onto your property and destroying your fence and potentially hurting or killing?

Eustis, FL |

The neighbors behind our rental property have 4 large dead trees. Recently one of them fell into our yard and destroyed our fence. They are taking no responsibility for our fence that needs to be replaced. Our concern is not so much for our fence but for the safety of our tenants. This tree fell within a few feet of the patio area where my tenants spend a lot of time. The other 3 dead trees (same age as the one that fell) are much larger and would definitely destroy the patio - and potentially hurt or kill people. We have spoken to the owner - he says that they will not fall for another year! How could someone know that especially since we live in Florida - any storm or hurricane would create havoc. How can we proceed to have him do the right thing before someone gets seriously hurt.

Attorney Answers 2

Posted

Generally, when your neighbor's tree falls onto your property and causes damage, it is considered an Act of God, and you neighbor is not responsible for the damage. The exception to that is if your neighbor has failed perform necessary maintenance on the tree. You should talk to your neighbor about the potential damage that can be caused by the trees and suggest that he take them down. If you are unsure of your rights and responsibilities as a property owner, you should consult an experienced real estate lawyer in your area.

Disclaimer: This answer is provided for informational purposes only, does not constitute legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Actual legal advice can only be provided after completing a comprehensive consultation in which all of the relevant facts are discussed and reviewed.

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Posted

If the trees were alive and well-maintained, then you would be responsible for any branches that fell into your yard. However, if the trees are all dead and one has already created damage to your yard, the trees are now a nuisance and can be treated as such. You should write a letter to your local municipality with pictures of the dead trees (and, if you have them, pictures of the tree that fell) and copy your neighbor on the letter. The city/county can order that the trees be removed. If you get no response, you may need to have an administrative law attorney handle this matter for you.

Carol Johnson Law Firm, P.A. : (727) 647-6645 : carol@caroljohnsonlaw.com : Wills, Trusts, Real Property, Probate, Special Needs: Information provided here is anecdotal and should not be relied upon or considered legal advice. Every matter is different and answers given here are general in nature and may not reflect current Florida law at the time you are reading this posting. Please contact me if you feel you need additional assistance with your matter.

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4 comments

Asker

Posted

Thank you. I will attempt to convey this to them again, and if they are not responsive then I will follow the rest of your instructions. Could you tell me - are they responsible for replacing our totally demolished fence from their first tree that fell on our property? Thank you so much.

Carol Anne Johnson

Carol Anne Johnson

Posted

Well, you would certainly think so - however, you would have to be able to make the argument that they were aware of the danger the trees posed and chose to ignore the danger and thus are responsible for the damage that happened as a result of their inaction. Take lots of pictures. You may need them if you end up in small claims court on this matter. Hopefully, they will decide to be good neighbors and do the right thing without it having to come to a court appearance.

Asker

Posted

Well, they were not good neighbors - a door slammed in our faces was the response! However - I did then do as you suggested, I contacted the code enforcement dept and was pleasantly surprised - they are headed over there today to check out the trees and give them a notice that they must remove the trees in 30 days. Amazing - no letter, no photos needed - just a simple phone call. Thank you again for your help.

Carol Anne Johnson

Carol Anne Johnson

Posted

Excellent! Sorry the neighbors were unfriendly, unfortunately, that means that small claims may be your only avenue for recouping your expenses. You have to weigh the value of that (will you actually get any money?) over starting a squabble with unpleasant neighbors.

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