Is Your Landlord Responsible For Fallen Trees? (Find Out Now!)
If a tree falls in your apartment and only renters hear it, does it even make a sound? Well, if you’re like most renters, you will be one of the first to hear the unmistakable crash of a fallen tree. That loud bang is often accompanied by building breakage, damage to cars, and more.
But what about landlords? Landlords will definitely hear about the damage, even if they didn’t see the crash. Who on earth ends up paying for all this damage?!
Landlords are generally responsible for fallen trees, simply because they own the property and the trees. If they neglected to trim a dead tree, it’s their negligence that caused the damage. If it was an act of God, then your renter’s insurance (or their property insurance) will foot the bill.
There is a ton of knowledge you can get from experiencing the disaster that a fallen tree can bring. Hopefully, we can help you learn about your rights without having to hear about this the hard way.
Before We Begin: A Quick Disclaimer About Real Estate Law
If you ever have an issue with your landlord, the best thing that you can do is call a real estate lawyer. The information we provide in this article is meant to be a general guideline. In most cases, you will have success and the right answers through our work. However, laws vary greatly from state to state. You need to call a lawyer if there’s a legal issue here!
Who’s Responsible For A Fallen Tree That Damaged An Apartment?
The rule of thumb is that damages are the responsibility of the property owner. Renters don’t own their apartments. Landlords do. This means that a landlord is the one who’s responsible for the damages caused by trees on their property. Here’s why:
- They own the tree. Ownership is a large portion of responsibility law. If you own a tree, then it’s your fault if your property causes damage to other properties around it.
- As a landlord, you are responsible for the maintenance of the grounds of your property. Tree trimmings and arbor maintenance are part of the landlord’s job. If they did not do what they could to keep the trees from falling, they failed as a landlord. They will then have to pay the price for it.
- Most landlords also have insurance that covers property damage or injuries caused by fallen trees. You have renter’s insurance to protect your property inside the apartment as well as certain parts of your unit. Landlords have something very similar, and yes, it covers grounds on the property as well.
Are There Any Moments Where You Might Be Liable For Damages If A Tree Fell?
As a renter, you are not going to be liable for much of anything related to the structure. If you have renter’s insurance (and you should!), then your possessions are not going to be your responsibility to replace, either. With your car, it’s the same situation as long as your policy covers “acts of God.”
The only time that you might be liable for a tree that falls near your apartment is if you and your friends decide to cut it down yourselves. Of course, most of us would not even consider doing something this stupid.
Does Tree Damage Always Show Immediately?
One of the trickier things about having a large item (like a tree) hit your building is that you can’t always tell how much damage has occurred. This is why you should always take photos and keep a good dialogue going with your landlord. If you notice leaking at your roof or a crack in your wall after impact, notify your landlord immediately.
What Should You Do If A Tree Fell And Hit Your Apartment Or Property?
If a tree fell and hit your apartment, it’s pretty clear you still have to do something. Here’s what you need to know about making sure that your bases are covered:
- Start by making sure that everyone is alright. Check your pets, if they were outside. Check your family members to make sure nothing hit them or that the roof didn’t cave in.
- Then, grab your cellphone and take as many photographs as you can of the damage. Take photos of your interior (if it was damaged or you suspect damage), the outside of your apartment, as well as any items that were damaged in the process. If you have reason to believe that a power line was knocked over, stay in your home until it’s been deemed safe to exit.
- Call your landlord. Report that a tree fell and damaged your apartment. Ask the superintendent to come as soon as they can to survey the damage. This also facilitates the insurance calls that your property manager has to do.
- Then, call your renter’s insurance company and car insurance company. Both companies (or the company, if you just bundled your insurance) will walk you through the claims process.
Is There Any Way You Can Prevent A Tree Falling On Your Apartment?
As a renter, it is only normal to feel like you should do something to prevent damage to your stuff. However, the problem is that you are not the person who is in charge of preventing accidents on the premises. That is your landlord’s duty.
If you still want to be helpful, the best thing you can do is keep an eye on the trees around your apartment. Do you see a branch hanging precariously close to a power line? What about the way that one tree is bending forwards? If so, you should call your landlord to give them a heads up. Sometimes, that can be the push they need to call in an arborist.
Can You Sue A Landlord For A Fallen Tree?
In most cases, there is not going to be a need to sue your landlord. Insurance generally takes care of most of the losses that people tend to have regarding this issue. However, there are certain moments where you should talk to a real estate attorney about a lawsuit:
- You’ve repeatedly warned your landlord about the tree that caused the damage. This can be a sign of neglect, which can make you and other residents right to ask about punitive damages.
- There has been serious physical damage done to you or one of your loved ones. A tree that falls on a person can be lethal. In some cases, insurance might not have enough money to cover all the medical bills. If this occurs to you, your best bet for covering the financial loss is to get a lawyer and sue your landlord—or sue the insurance company.
- Your landlord has openly refused to cover the damage that the tree has fallen. Your fallen tree may not have actually been caused by your landlord. However, they are still required to cover the damages in most cases. If they are not willing to fix the building or cover injuries that occurred on premises, a lawsuit may be in order.
- This is just one out many incidents that have put your wellbeing or life at risk. If you have a bad landlord who just doesn’t seem to take your health into account, having this tree fall could be a sign that you need to sue them.
- Your landlord asked you to pay for the tree’s removal or the damages. This is not okay and it is generally not considered to be legal. If you are being held liable, chances are that you have a slimy landlord and that you have grounds to sue. Even leaving the fallen tree there for two weeks can be grounds for a lawsuit in some areas. So, call a lawyer.
What kind of damage is a fallen tree considered?
If a tree falls and breaks your property as a result of you not trimming it or cutting it after it died, then it’s a matter of neglect. On the other hand, if a tree falls as a result of extreme weather, it’s considered to be an “act of God.” Acts of God are deemed to be phenomena that were neither preventable nor predictable. So, a tree falling from 175 mile per hour winds would fit this phenomenon.
Do all renters’ insurance policies cover acts of God?
For the most part, renters’ insurance is there to cover the unknown and the unpredictable. This means that the vast majority of policies will have acts of God covered by a policy. If you want to double-check or beef up the insurance coverage you already have, then you can refer to your policy page and give your agent a call.
Who is in charge of removing a fallen tree?
Your landlord is responsible for all plant life and lawncare that goes on in the apartment complex. This includes tree removal. If a tree fell, then it is your landlord who is meant to pay for its removal. It’s both an aesthetic and a safety-based responsibility.
Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.
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