Is my landlord responsible for trimming a tree which I have informed them is growing at a dangerous angle?

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Is my landlord responsible for trimming a tree which I have informed them is growing at a dangerous angle?

They say they are only responsible if the tree is dead and if it falls that will be an “act of god”. It is a huge pecan tree and has a split trunk. One side grows straight up, but the other is an arc over our entire driveway and parking area. We have moved our vehicles to the side but cannot get completely out from under it. We have a 2 year old that like to play outside, so its not just a matter of vehicle damage. I have told them twice and no one has even come to look at it.

Asked on June 7, 2012 under Real Estate Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The landlord is not quite right: it's not merely that they have to trim or remove dead trees, but they have to take action to remediate, or correct, any threat to health or safety once they are made aware of it. Failure to do so would be a violation of the implied warranty of habitabity, and they would be liable for property damage or injuries it causes.

If the landlord refuses to correct a dangerous condition, instead of waiting for the injuries and then suing, you may be able to bring a legal action seeking "injunctive relief"--a court order that the landlord correct the condition. Note, however, that the condition must be such that a reasonable person would consider it unreasonably dangerous: if the tree is leaning but is fundamentally safe, the landlord does not have to do anything about it.

So, if you feel this tree poses a real and imminent danger and the landlord will not correct it, your recourse would be to file a lawsuit, seeking a court order directing the landlord to deal with the situation, based on a presumed violation of the implied warranty of habitability; to prevail, you would have to show the risk or danger.


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