If our healthy tree fell on our neighbor’s property during a storm, what are our legal obligations?

The tree was healthy before the storm, and the neighbor never expressed concern about it. After it fell, we were going to do the neighborly thing by removing the tree and repairing the fence between our properties; however, they removed the part of the tree that was on their property before we got a chance to do so (and without discussing it with us). Do we have a legal obligation to pay for this?

Asked on September 21, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Delaware


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

What happened here is known as an Act of God.  The tree did ot fall because it was diseased or damaged prior or through any negligent act on the part of you and your husband.  So technically you do not have a legal - or monetary as you are asking - to pay for the removal or the damage done to the fence.  But listen: there is a saying that bad trees make bad neighbors.  More disputes between neighbors center around this matter than all others: trees.  Is it that the removal cost more than you would have paid?  Or the fact that they went ahead and did it with out consulting you?  They had a right to clean up their property.  And if you were going to pay for the removal and repair of the fence then take the high road now and offer what you had planned on budgeting for the matter. Explain nicely that it was always your intention but that they beat you to it and you had only budgeted this amount.   Better not to live the next 30 years with a feud.  Good luck. 

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