What are my rights if the town property adjacent to mine has a long dead cottonwood tree threatening to damage my property?

A representative of the town came over and proclaimed, “If it falls and damages your property, it’s an ‘act of God’, and that is why you have homeowner’s insurance”. I tried to explain that, in this case, a preventable event is no longer an act of God and my insurance company will seek damages against them. He just blew me off and walked away. Am I off base?

Asked on October 27, 2014 under Real Estate Law, Wyoming

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

It is not an "act of God" IF the property owner knows or has reason to know--such as because you told them--that the try is dead and reprsents a hazard; in that case, the property owner's failure to take reasonable precautions in the face of knowledge of an enhanced risk may make them liable. You should send the town a written demand that the tree be cut down; include descrptions, details, even photos; and send it not one, but several ways that you can prove delivery. This will help position you for any legal action.


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