Cleaning up tree damage after the storms

The aftermath and clear-up following a storm is often worse than the storm itself.

If you have had any issues with trees damaged by high winds, or having fallen on another’s property, we will help you decide your next steps.

Health and Safety of others

Any resident or business with trees on land they own or occupy has a certain duty of care to those who may be at risk from the tree falling or branches breaking off.

This level of duty is measured as that of the ‘reasonable and prudent landowner’.

Meaning you have a civil liability to check for potentially hazardous trees on your land using the limited knowledge that anyone not in the arboriculture industry might be expected to have.

Your duty of care not only extends to those who may be expected to come within the vicinity of the tree, but also to trespassers.

Following a few simple steps could ensure you comply with these duties:

Regularly checking trees for signs of damage, undertaking risk assessments and putting in place the consequent measures to mitigate against future issues.

Compliance with any advice and recommendations given by experts.

Holding records of any work undertaken so that these can be reviewed at later stages and to show ongoing management.

• If you are made aware of a potential risk by another party, investigate it immediately and keep records of remedial action taken. Any knowledge of a problem may render you liable for failing to remedy it.

Whilst it is highly unlikely that fallen trees or branches will cause any injury, it does happen. Being able to prove you have followed every reasonable step to prevent such an accident will prevent any further trauma caused by such a happening.

Whose responsibility is it to clear a fallen tree and pay for any damage?

A tree is the responsibility of the landowner for whom the tree is planted regardless of whether they planted it or not, if it is on their land.

A person may be found liable for a fallen tree on their property, or the land they occupy, if they cannot prove the following. That they have taken reasonable steps to avoid such an occurrence and not dealt with any issues surrounding the tree that could have reasonably been aware of.

Therefore if a tree that was deemed perfectly healthy fell on a neighbour’s property the landowner would not be held responsible.

However if the tree in this scenario had previously been reported to the owner as diseased or damaged, then there would be a case for liability.

To redeem any damages from the landowner, the neighbour would need to be able to prove negligence and that the owner has breached their duty to remove the tree having known of potential issues.

Top tips:

• If in doubt as to the health of a tree, always consult a certified arboriculturist and obtain a report in writing from them as to whether they deem the tree to be healthy or otherwise.

Always try to communicate amicably with a neighbour over these sorts of issues. If any dispute arises, involve an impartial third party to mediate. Communication early on in a situation can often prevent litigation. It may be prudent to accept a compromise on the cost of remediation of a tree and its branches, to avoid more costly litigation if the matter escalates.

Keep records of any communication between yourself and your neighbour.

• If an expert does report a tree to be damaged or diseased, let the landowner responsible know as soon as possible in writing and make sure that they know that failure to act on the information appropriately may result in them being held liable for any future issues.

Before undertaking any work on a tree, ensure that it is not covered by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO). Your local authority should have a list of all trees that are.

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This article is for general information purposes only. It does not constitute technical, financial, legal advice or any other type of professional advice and is no substitute for specific advice based on your individual circumstances. We do not accept responsibility or liability for any actions taken based on the information in this article. For more information, please click here.