Feb 2014

Winter Storms, Trees, Neighbors and Houses

By admin

Winter Storm “Quintus” is on the way and we’re not yet through digging out from winter storm “Pax”.  Snow, ice, sleet, hail.  As I glance nervously across my driveway to the 100-year-old, 100-feet-tall tree in my neighbor’s yard, I start to wonder who’d be responsible for the destruction of my home should the tree fall.  You see, I live on the down slope of a hill and my real estate (along with my car, cat and an abundance of stuff) is smack dab in that tree’s trajectory should mother nature decide to send it toppling.

Now, when I bought my property, I used the services of a title insurance company and purchased an owner’s PA Title Insurance policy.  This policy with the proper survey endorsement protected me from any encroachments onto my property by my neighbors.  This means that if their garage or fence is actually on a part of my land, then my PA title insurance company would help me if I were to decide to make an issue of it.  But that scary tree is entirely on their property, not on mine, so my Pennsylvania title insurance policy can’t protect me here, even when that tree falls onto my land (and my roof, and my car, and my head).

Who pays?  If the tree proves healthy and just fell due to the old “act of nature”, then my own homeowner’s insurance would have to pay for repairs.  But, and this is something many homeowners don’t know, if it’s shown that the tree is not healthy, then in a lot of instances the courts have found that the tree owner is responsible for damage and repairs.  The theory there being that there is an obligation to make certain your trees aren’t sick or a possible hazard due to disease, loose limbs, etc.

So as I read next week’s forecast calling for heavy rains and temperatures in the 50’s, I can worry anew about the stability of that darn tree’s roots in muddy ground.  And wonder if the trunk is healthy enough to provide good wood for my coffin.  Oh, and I think I’ll call my homeowner’s insurance agent.  I only hope he’s as helpful and responsive as those guys that show up with a snap of the thumb on those crazy commercials.

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