Legal Question in Real Estate Law in Georgia

fallen tree

I live in Georgia and after a bad storm, one of my trees that is questionably on my property fell and hit my neighbors fence and top branches landed on his roof. Who is responsible for the damage. I live in a brand new home and his home is very old and the roof is already fallen apart, I am afraid he is going to try and use this as an excuse to sue me for damages. His house is under forclouse from the state for not paying property taxes. What should I do? Should my home owners insurance have to pay???

Asked on 4/07/07, 6:39 pm

3 Answers from Attorneys

Charles W. Field Charles W. Field, Attorney at Law

Re: fallen tree

You are not responsible unless the tree was either visibly diseased or otherwise damaged so that its falling down was predictable. You state that the tree was "questionably" in your yard. That is your neighbor's first hurdle: if the tree was not on your property, you have no liability at all.

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Answered on 4/08/07, 9:36 am
Joel Callins The Callins Law Firm, LLC

Re: fallen tree

First, you are responsible for the damage caused by the fallen tree, because the tree is on your property. The proactive approach to resolving this problem would be to send your neighbor a certified letter, :(1) acknowledging your responsibility for the damage caused by the tree, and (2) requesting permission to allow contractor(s) selected by you to examine the damage and provide you with an estimate for the repair(s). Include language in your letter to the effect that if your neighbor fails to respond in writing to you within thirty (30) days, that you will presume that he is waiving any future claim(s) against you for the damage. If the neighbor responds and grants you permission to receive estimates, arrange for at least three (3) repair estimates, average all estimates for a composite cost, and propose a cash settlement with your neighbor for 60% of the average cost, in exchange for a waiver / release from future claims. Your homeowners insurance will not cover this because traditional policies cover damage against your home rather than damage effecting adjoining properties. I hope this helps.

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Answered on 4/07/07, 6:54 pm
Scott Riddle Law Office of Scott B. Riddle, LLC

Re: fallen tree

You are not necessarily legally responsible for the damages because the tree was on your property. Factors include the condition of the tree, your knowledge of the condition, or whether the storm was strong enough to blow over a perfectly healthy tree (ie, an "Act of God"). A certified letter attempting to create a 30 day time limit (which has no legal effect) will do little except create the appearance that you will not cooperate. It is your neighbor - walk over and knock on the door to start off a positive conversation. Finally, no one here can GUESS what your insurance will or will not cover. You have the policy - read it. It is certainly not true that policies do not cover liability to others' property. Finally, while legal liability is one thing, many people would also see it as a little more than that. His property taxes, and the fact they you have a "new house" have little or nothing to do with the issue beyond the repair costs.

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Answered on 4/07/07, 8:05 pm

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