Tree Liabilty

 

Many property owners and property managers don’t realize that part of their legal duty to maintain their property in a safe, hazard-free condition includes their trees.

A properly and regularly performed inspection of trees and implementation of a maintenance program can lessen the property owner’s exposure to expensive negligence lawsuits, reduce hazardous conditions and preserve the properties value.

It is hard to imagine a home, municipality, community park, school campus or a construction project that doesn’t include trees, shrubs and other plants. Although trees add great value to the landscapes around us, if they are not monitored and cared for properly, they can become a legal liability.

To the untrained homeowner or manager, a tree may appear to be fine. Yet, many trees have suffered damage from lightning, wind, construction activity, insects, and disease. It is not uncommon for a healthy looking vigorously growing tree to be a dangerous tree, one waiting for the right combination of wind, rain, ice or other circumstance to fail and cause a tragedy.

Many states have recognized that, property owners have an expressed duty to inspect and maintain their trees. A property owner may be considered negligent if he or she has a tree

that falls and harms a person or damages property.

Required inspection can be performed by anyone. However, there are many problems difficult to detect by a homeowner or manager. Property owners and professionals should work with a certified arborist to develop an annual inspection and maintenance plan for the trees that will alert the property owner to structurally unstable trees and provide a reasonable maintenance program.

 

So what should property owners and professionals property managers do? The following steps will help manage risk from dangerous trees:

 

  1. Develop a tree inspection and management policy.
  2. Put in plain writing and document efforts to alleviate know hazards
  3. Ask your insurance agent about your tree coverage. Request a discount when you develop and implement your tree plan, which lessens the carrier's exposure.
  4. Work with a certified arborist. The professional should be trained in visual tree assessment and hazard tree recognition and be a member of one or more of the national arborcultural association

 

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