If a tree on neighboring propertyfalls in your yard, who is responsible?

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If a tree on neighboring propertyfalls in your yard, who is responsible?

A township tree located between sidewalk and street in front of my house fell during a wind storm onto a neighbor’s house. We had been trying to get the tree removed for years, yet the town refused to even let it be trimmed. A few months prior to it falling, half of the roots were removed during a street project. The neighbor experienced damage to their house, we lost our entire sidewalk and had the electric pulled from the house. We are now being sued by the neighbor, even though it was the town’s tree. What can we do?

Asked on May 5, 2011 under Real Estate Law, New Jersey

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

There has to be an adjudication that the tree was not your and was the towns.  Has the neighbor sued the town as well? I am inclined to tell you to contact your homeowners policy and send them a copy of the paperwork.  They may not indemnify you if the tree is not yours but they will defend under what is called a "reservation of rights".  I might also consult with an attorney outside the one assigned to you through your homeowners policy as to the matter.  A declaratory judgement action needs to be brought to declare the tree to be the towns and the towns responsibility.  The town needs to be impleaded - brought in to the action - against you by the neighbors.  Good luck to you.


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