Fact Finders: Can you cut a neighbor’s tree?

Tree questions are one of the most common questions insurance agencies get.
We’re tackling a question about trees hanging over property lines on the 15th anniversary of the ice storm.
Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 10:04 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - We’re tackling a question about trees hanging over property lines on the 15th anniversary of the ice storm. Rich wants to know, “Can you cut a neighbor’s tree if it poses a threat to your house and the tree extends onto your property?”

The Insurance Information Institute says tree questions are one of the most common questions they get.

Local Attorney Grant Rahmeyer says you can always approach your neighbor and say I’m worried about this, do you mind if I cut it down? If the answer is no, you could still do some cutting.

“We live in this imaginary box. And so our property line is not just on the ground, it goes up into space, and that’s our imaginary box. So this tree is falling (and) it is over into our imaginary box. Legally, you can cut. So, that is another option. Always, I recommend first, be neighborly. But, you can cut it, that’s up to you. But you got to stay within your property line,” explains Rahmeyer of Rah Law.

So, without your neighbor’s permission, you can’t cut the whole tree down. So, the answer is NO to the question. But, you could trim the part of the tree that hangs over your property.

Meantime, Debi Campbell with Nixon and Lindstrom Insurance explained what happens if a storm causes your neighbor’s tree to come down and damages something like your car. That’s considered an Act of God. You would file a claim with your insurance company. Your neighbor would not. “More often than not, damages would be the responsibility of the homeowner who incurred damages. This most likely would be filed as a wind claim and would be subject to their policy deductible,” Campbell said.

There’s one exception to that; if you can prove negligence. “If they can prove negligence on the part of the neighbor, then damages would be the neighbor’s responsibility,” explained Campbell. For example, “the tree showed signs that it was rotting and needed to be removed, this would show negligence on the part of the neighbor and it would be the neighbor’s responsibility to repair the damages.”

The Insurance Information Institute also provided us with a link to a number of other questions regarding trees and tree damage. You can read it here> Insurance Information Institute.

If you have something you want us to investigate, email us at factfinders@ky3.com.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com

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