If a tree fell during a snowstorm on my personal property and damaged it, is the property management/landlord responsible for compensation?

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If a tree fell during a snowstorm on my personal property and damaged it, is the property management/landlord responsible for compensation?

The tree was rotting and has been poorly maintained. A trunk fell off and crushed an expensive free-standing hammock that was originally placed out of the tree’s standing branch range. I can’t even get the hammock out from under the tree now. The property management advised me to contact my insurance company to see if my renter’s coverage would handle it. They would not. The cost of the hammock (~300.00) is below the minimum covered. The property management/homeowner says that they are not responsible for compensating me for the damage but they failed to maintain the tree.

Asked on April 19, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Oregon

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You say the landlord and/or property management failed to "maintain" the tree--but did they? Unless there was some reason to be aware that the tree was a hazard, the property owner is not liable for damage it causes.

The issue is whether the fact that the tree was "rotting" was clearly visible or was otherwise known to the landlord or its manager. If it was, then you could likely hold them liable--though if they refuse to pay voluntarily, you will have to sue them for the money. (One option is to sue in small claims court, acting as your own attorney.) If the rot was only visible after the fact, however--e.g. it could not be detected until the limb or trunk fell--then there would almost certainly be no liabilty, since property owners are not under an affirmative duty to inspect trees on their property in the absence of some warning of a hazard or risk.


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