There are lots of reasons a tree can fall – bad weather, poor maintenance and old age. One sure thing is that a fallen tree can cause a whole lot of damage, so it’s essential to know what to do when a tree falls on your property to avoid having to shoulder costly repair bills or even medical fees.

Who is responsible when a tree falls on my property?

In many cases, the person responsible when a tree falls on your property is the owner of the tree – so this could be yourself, your neighbour, the local authority, or the owner of any commercial premises near your home.

The owner of the tree is obliged to monitor its health and trim or fell the tree accordingly. If they don’t maintain the tree properly, then they may be liable for any damage caused.

What does the law say?

Responsibility for a fallen tree can be difficult to prove, especially if the damage happened during a storm. However, under the Trees (Disputes Between Neighbours Act) 2006, New South Wales citizens can take neighbours to the Land and Environment Court. For claims to be successful, the tree must:

  • Cause more than cosmetic damage
  • Be a direct cause of the damage
  • Be demonstrably unhealthy or pose a notable risk of damage

Note: Courts may not find in your favour if they consider the damage to be the result of an act of God.

What to do if you're concerned about a tree

If you’re concerned about a tree near your property and it isn’t on your land, the first step is to talk to the tree owner about your concerns. If the situation does not improve, it may be worth keeping a record of things such as:

  • Falling branches
  • Areas of contact that you believe cause damage
  • Previous incidents that caused concern
  • Any new or existing damage

Record details of any conversations you have about the problem, as well as details of the actual damage. It will be useful to take photographs too. If you need to take the tree owner to court, the more evidence you have, the better your case will be understood.

Can my insurance policy cover me for any damages?

Buildings or home insurance can cover the costs of removing a fallen tree, but only in certain circumstances. Wording is crucial in this circumstance, so it’s important to check your policy carefully. If the tree has damaged something that is deemed to be shared property (such as a boundary fence) then you may have to split the costs of removal with your neighbour.

What can I do to prevent this type of damage?

Old or diseased trees pose a very real risk to both property and people. If you’re lucky enough to have a lot of trees on your property, it’s essential to take good care of them. A regular maintenance program from someone like Summerland Trees can help you spot any problems early on and avoid costly reparations.