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Who is responsible for fallen tree branches due to a storm tenant or landlord.

Seattle, WA |

In the lease agreement it states that tenant shall be responsible for maintaining and up keep of property inside and outside of the home. Also states the tenant shall inform the landlord of any condition that may cause damage to the house. If the house, or any part of the house, is partially damaged by fire or other casualty not due to the negligence or willful act of the tenant or agent of the tenant, the house will be immediately repaired by the landlord and there will be an abatement of rent corresponding with the time during which the house was untreatable.

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Attorney answers 4


On the lease provision provided, the tenant would be responsible to report any condition that the tenant knows of.

LL would have to show in court that tenant knew or should have knowd that a tree branch would fall.

A tenant could be shown to have known if:
1. tenant was was an arborist,
2. could predict future events,
3. or if the tree was so diseased that any lay person would have known the potential for a large branch falling was clear.

Showing negligence the LL would have to convince a court that:
(1) there existed a duty
(2) tenant breached that duty by knowingly exposing the landlord to a substantial risk of loss or by by failing a duty which any reasonable person in the same situation would have known.
(3) factual causation--LL would need to show that 'but for' the breach, the loss would not have occured.
(4)harm--LL has to show that tenants breach direclty caused the loss.

Personally I don't see this lease provision as protective to the LL.

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If you are asking who will be paying for damages, a lot more information would need to be known to give you an informed opinion.

It may turn out that no one will be paying anyone else for damages. That is, each damaged party is responsible for paying for the party's own damages and not responsible for anyone else's damages.

If you are referring to the storms the Seattle area just experienced, one word that has been thrown around quite a bit is "historic". From south of Olympia to north of Tacoma, traffic pretty much stopped for the last three days from the snow and ice. The University of WA and the courts have closed for at least the last two days. These places seldom close due to weather. "Historic" can be loosely translated into "unforeseeable" in legalese.

If there is appropriate insurance coverage, the insured can report the damages to the insurance company.

In general, the owner of the tree would be liable for damages caused by the tree from known or should have been known defects of the tree. For example, if the owner of the tree has known that the tree is rotted but did nothing, the owner likely would be liable for the falling branches from the tree. On another hand, if a previously healthy tree drops its branches from "historic" storms, the tree owner likely is not liable. (The insurance company may also deny the claim due to the usual "act of god" clause in insurance contracts.)

You will need to review the specific facts with your attorney to find out your legal options.


I agree with the previous answers and would say that tree damage may be covered under the owners insurance.
Good Luck

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The RLTA says that the parties agreements to "contract around" the RLTA are void as against public policy and unenforceable. See RCW 59 18 230. The landlord is fundamentally responsible for maintenance issues. Yes, you have to give notice, in writing, of problem conditions, and most tenants are habituated to pick up the phone rather than writing, and this invariably causes issues.

But your contract that says rent is abated requires immediate repair and a rent abatement while the house is "untreatable" is likely enforceable.

But you, the tenant, cannot waive your right to reside in habitable property at all times during the tenancy.

In WA, negligence is always somebody's fault. But unless you were actively pushing on the tree, it is hard to see how you could be responsible for your landlord's failure to deal with a tree properly. I am writing this, even though I won't earn any points, because my colleagues apparently missed this part of the analysis. Hope this helps.

Elizabeth Powell

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