Good Question: Who’s Responsible When A Neighbor’s Tree Falls In Your Yard?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It happens during every major summer storm.  Trees fall and sometimes they happen to come down right on our neighbor’s property.

So, who is responsible for the damage and clean-up? Good Question.

“There isn’t just one answer, but there will be an answer that applies in most situations,” says Eric Rongstad, an independent insurance agent with R.I.G. Metro, LLC.

He says if a neighbor’s healthy tree falls onto your home during a storm, you will have to file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance company to cover the damage. He says that’s why people have homeowner’s insurance – to pay for damage that happens to their home.

“A lot of times people think the neighbor’s insurance is going to pay for it because it’s their tree, but it’s not, your insurance is still going to pay for it,” Rongstad says.

The cost of removing a tree from the top of a home is often covered by insurance, but insurance companies generally only give homeowners $500 for tree removal from the property. Homeowners can be on the hook for those removal costs as well.

If the tree was diseased or dead – and the tree’s owner knew it – then the tree’s owner could be held liable for any damage. In those cases, if there are disagreements, Rongstad says insurance companies will bring in experts to decide who will pay.

If a neighbor’s tree falls on your car, Rongstad says your auto insurance will cover the costs of repair or replacement, but only if the coverage is catastrophic.

When insurance isn’t involved – meaning there was no structural damage – the laws regarding trees in Minnesota are a little trickier.

“Unfortunately, in Minnesota, we don’t have a really clear answer,” says attorney Bryan Zlimen.

If a healthy tree falls into a person’s yard, but doesn’t cause damage, Zlimen says you could argue the homeowner where the tree fell is responsible for removal.  But, he says Minnesota also has a nuisance law that says if there is something on your land that’s interfering with your use, there’s a case to be made it’s the treeowner’s responsibility.

“I think that the best answer really is for homeowners to come together and try to work it out,” says Zlimen.

Experts also say people can trim their neighbor’s trees or branches if they cross into your property, as long as they aren’t cut so as to damage or kill the tree.

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