Is A Landlord Responsible For Tree Damage To A Car? (Find Out Now!)
You’re enjoying a beautiful morning with a lovely cup of coffee when you realize that something seems amiss. You look outside and see that your car has been smashed by a fallen tree branch. Because you live in a rental property, you may wonder if your landlord is responsible for tree damage to your car.
Your landlord is responsible for tree damage in cases of negligence, such as a dead tree that should be removed. Acts of nature are not considered negligence, and your landlord is not responsible for the damage to your car. Without negligence by your landlord, you are responsible for the tree damage to your car.
Liability is often a grey area when it comes to rental properties. Let’s look at how the law defines liability and steps you can take to get your car fixed.
Is My Landlord Responsible for Tree Damage to My Car?
Let’s start with the original question and how the situation is examined under the law. In order for your landlord to be responsible for tree damage to your car, you have to prove some type of negligence.
What is Negligence?
Under the law, negligence has a few criteria that need to be met. First, negligence is failure to behave or act with a level of care as any reasonable person in the same circumstances. This does not mean after the tree fell on your car. It refers to what led up to the tree falling on your car.
Courts and insurance companies consider 3 basic criteria when determining if someone acted in a negligent way. Specifically, the individual, in this case, your landlord:
- Owed you some duty of care
- Failed to provide that duty of care
- Legally caused you to suffer damages or injuries as a result of failing to meet the duty of care
What Qualifies as Negligence Under the Law?
There are 4 types of negligence that are considered under the law.
In cases of gross negligence, it has been proven that an individual acted with reckless behavior. This is the most serious type of negligence, and it is most often seen in cases of medical malpractice.
People can be found negligent even if they are not 100% responsible for the damages and injuries. This is considered contributory negligence.
Comparative negligence applies when victims are partially responsible for their damages and injuries. If a person is even only 1% responsible, they may not receive compensation from the other party.
Vicarious negligence describes situations in which the responsible party did not directly cause the damage or injury. They are, though, somehow indirectly responsible. The most common situation in which vicarious negligence applies is when a dog bites someone. The owner of the dog is responsible for damages.
Are Acts of Nature Considered Negligence?
Acts of nature are not considered negligence. If wind or a thunderstorm caused an otherwise healthy tree to land on your car, the landlord is not responsible.
How Do You Determine Negligence?
Without being an attorney, the best way to approach the situation is to gather facts. Ask yourself a few questions.
- Was the tree healthy? What caused it to fall? Was it an act of nature, such as high winds or a recent storm?
- Have you reported any issues with the tree, such as it leaning or having broken branches?
- Did you report any other issues with the property, such as plumbing problems?
- Were you parked in a designated or legal parking space?
- Did an act of nature damage an otherwise healthy and maintained tree?
It may be difficult to be honest with yourself when answering these questions. After all, you’re already having a rough day. You certainly don’t need the additional burden of feeling responsible in some way. On the other hand, you may realize that the landlord is responsible. This can give you a sense of relief. Answering these questions honestly helps you decide the best possible solution.
Landscaping Services at Large Rental Properties
What if you live in a large rental community, and a tree falls on your car? Is the landlord or landscaping service responsible? This is an interesting question. Again, it depends. It is true that the property management company hired the landscaping service, so it appears that vicarious negligence may apply.
In reality, the landscaping company may be the responsible party. The exception may be if your property manager hired a company or individual without the proper licensing and experience. Speak with an attorney.
Will the Landlord’s Home Insurance Policy Pay for Tree Damage?
Your landlord’s homeowner’s insurance policy only covers damage to the structure. In other words, if the tree falls on the house, it may be covered. Homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover damage to vehicles, even if it happens at the same time as damage to the house.
How to Get Coverage for Tree Damage to Your Car
There are three types of insurance coverage that may apply to your fallen tree situation – the landlord’s property damage liability insurance, your vehicle insurance, and your renter’s insurance.
File a Claim Against Your Landlord’s Insurance
If your landlord has insurance for the rental property, damages to your car may be covered. Unfortunately, few landlords carry this level of insurance. Any insurance that they do have only covered medical and legal expenses for their tenants.
If your landlord does have this type of coverage, you have to prove negligence. This may include:
- Reports to the landlord about concerns with the tree
- Photos of the tree that show it is obviously unhealthy
- Documentation of designated parking spaces at the rental property
- Records of landscaping services at the property
File a Claim Under Your Vehicle Insurance
You can file a claim under your vehicle insurance for the damage to your car. You will be responsible for the deductible and other out-of-pocket costs.
Does Renter’s Insurance Cover Car Damage?
Renter’s insurance covers your belongings. If the tree destroyed personal items inside your car, those would be covered. Damage to the vehicle is not covered.
Speak with an Attorney
Not having insurance does not diminish your landlord’s responsibility for negligence. If you can prove that your landlord was negligent, you may be entitled to compensation. Discuss the situation with an attorney. Take photos of the property, tree, and damage to your car. Also take any documents that demonstrate that your landlord knowingly ignored an issue with the tree.
Are You Partially Responsible for Tree Damage to Your Car?
Let’s look at some examples of how tenants may be partially responsible for tree damage to their cars.
- Hitting the tree and causing it to fall on the car
- Not reporting problems with the tree to the landlord, such as leaning, disease, or damage
- Parking a car outside of designated spaces, such as in the front yard under the tree
- Trying to remove or prune a tree yourself, even with the landlord’s permission
- Not reporting a broken pipe in the yard that caused the tree to fall
Losing a Court Case Costs You Money
Before you decide to sue your landlord for tree damage to your car, make sure that you can win the case. If you lose, your landlord has the right to request compensation for court costs. This is on top of paying your deductible and other out-of-pocket costs for getting your car repaired.
Can My Landlord Sue Me for Tree Damage?
In some cases, your landlord may be able to recover costs from you for tree damage. Negligence also applies to tenants. Depending on the circumstances, your renter’s insurance may not provide coverage.
Always follow your lease agreement. Make sure that you are familiar with the requirements, responsibilities, and duties that are outlined in the document. If your landlord changes any terms verbally, get it in writing. Ideally, you should request a new lease ort lease addendum. Insurance companies and courts value written documents more than verbal agreements.
Who is responsible for landscaping in a rental property?
Rental agreements and leases are intended to outline shared responsibilities. Check your lease. If the landscaping is not included, request a lease addendum from your landlord.
How do I report a problem to my landlord?
The best way to report an issue to your landlord is in writing. If you speak with your landlord in person or on the phone, follow up with a written request. This can be an email, text message, or letter. Keep a copy for your records. Note when the problem is addressed and the outcome.
Understandably, you are upset about your car being damaged by a tree. Before you jump to any conclusions, though, go back to your coffee, take a deep breath, and think through the situation. Once you are calm, take photos of your car, the tree, and the property.
Notify your landlord of the situation in writing. Keep it brief, and don’t state anything that implies responsibility on either side. Contact your renter’s insurance and vehicle insurance company for advice and guidance. Also, speak with an attorney.
Jennifer L. Eggerton loves being hands-on, whether it's with a home DIY project, making repairs, re-decorating a room, or keeping life organized. She enjoys helping people by sharing her knowledge, insights, and experiences, as well as her lessons learned. In addition to her work as a writer, Jennifer is a Jeep® overlander, self-published author, and nature photographer who loves being outdoors.
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