If my tenant’s brother has an unregistered vehicle on my rental property and a tree from my property fell on top of it, who is liable for the damages?

There were high winds. My tenant called me to tell me that the tree fell on top of her brother’s unregistered car. I think she is telling me to involve my home insurance. Under the lease agreement it specifies that vehicles must be registered and she has the option of rentals insurance.

Asked on March 6, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Nevada

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

For an analysis of your potential liabilty under the lease, you would need to bring the lease to an attorney to review with you--the precise language of a lease, like the precise language of any other contract (since that's what a lease is--a contract) determines the parties' rights and obligations.

However, that said:

1) If you were not generally responsible for landscaping, tree "maintenance," etc. (i.e. if this was done by the landlord), you should not be responsible.

2) Even if you were responsible for the landscaping, etc., unless there was some reason to know the tree posed an unreasonable hazard--it was sick or dying or dead; it was visibily leaning, as if its roots were not holding it well; etc.--you would not be liable. A property owner or renter is not generally liable when high winds (or snow or lightning) fells a tree, unless he or she had notice or should have known that the tree was a risk or in bad shape, and therefore that he or she had to do something about it.


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