After all of the recent storms, many people are asking the question, “If a tree in my yard damages my neighbor’s property, am I responsible?” The simple answer is no, IF the tree was alive and healthy, and fell as a result of the storm. The reasoning behind this is found in Ohio law, which states that a tree owner is not responsible for damage caused by their tree, unless the tree owner was negligent. In this instance, the damage was caused from a storm, so there is nothing that that the tree owner did that was negligent. However, if the tree was dead, or dying, and you had knowledge of this, but did nothing to remedy it, you may be considered negligent and owe for the damages caused by your tree.
Therefore, if you see that a tree on your property that appears to be dead or dying (typically no longer has green foliage), we suggest you have the tree removed as soon as possible. On the flip side, if your neighbor has a tree near your property that appears to be dead or dying, it is important that you notify them, and request they remove the tree so it does not cause damage to your property.
This subject also brings the question of tree ownership; how is it determined? In Ohio, a tree is owned by the property upon which the tree is grown. However, Ohio law states that property lines extend upward toward the sky, so the limbs of a tree extending onto your property are still owned by your neighbor, but you have the right to trim them, since they are on your property. However, it is very important that you are cautious when trimming the branches, as the Ohio Revised Code states you cannot permanently damage the tree. We suggest talking with your neighbor before taking any action, as this may be the best way to avoid any hard feelings.
If you have any additional questions about tree ownership or liability, contact your agent at Lauber & Will Insurance today!