What to do if a neighbor’s tree is causing damage to our property?

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What to do if a neighbor’s tree is causing damage to our property?

Our backyard borders a greenway/ravine type of thing, and a church is on the other side. There are numerous cottonwood trees in our back yard. Huge things. A partially uprooted tree that we believe to be on the church’s property is leaning against another tree that we believe to be on our property. The latter tree is being pushed in the direction of our neighbor’s house. An arborist has determined that both trees should be removed. Shouldn’t the church be responsible because it’s their tree that’s causing the issue in the first place?

Asked on August 10, 2015 under Real Estate Law, Oregon

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If the church is aware of the issue and, despite being aware of it, takes no reasonable steps to prevent their tree from damaging another's property, they may be liable for any damage done. However:

1) As stated, they must have knowledge of the issue; they would not be at fault, and so not liable, without knowledge that there is some issue they must correct.

2) Even with knowledge, they are not affirmatively required to take steps to avoid the damage--they could elect to not take protective or precautionary steps, wait to see if anything does happen, then take the consequences. (That is, while they may be liable, if they know there is a problem to be corrct and they fail to do so, that does not force them to take steps to correct the issue--it just means that if something does occur, they could be responsible for it.)

So while the church should pay for the tree removal if they aware that their tree is creating a threat, you can't make them pay...you can just potentially hold them accountable if anything does happen.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If the church is aware of the issue and, despite being aware of it, takes no reasonable steps to prevent their tree from damaging another's property, they may be liable for any damage done. However:

1) As stated, they must have knowledge of the issue; they would not be at fault, and so not liable, without knowledge that there is some issue they must correct.

2) Even with knowledge, they are not affirmatively required to take steps to avoid the damage--they could elect to not take protective or precautionary steps, wait to see if anything does happen, then take the consequences. (That is, while they may be liable, if they know there is a problem to be corrct and they fail to do so, that does not force them to take steps to correct the issue--it just means that if something does occur, they could be responsible for it.)

So while the church should pay for the tree removal if they aware that their tree is creating a threat, you can't make them pay...you can just potentially hold them accountable if anything does happen.


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