Hazard Trees

Phil Querin Q&A - When is a Hazard Tree Not a Hazard Tree?

Question. A couple of posts ago, I addressed a questions regarding the roots of a non-hazard tree located on the resident’s space interfering with their sewer line. 

 

There were some follow-up questions I will address below. However, here’s the caveat: This is not legal advice, and community owners and managers should confer with their own legal counsel. Also, my answers are merely my opinions, and others have every right to disagree. Who is ultimately right is up to the judge before whom the matter is submitted.

 

Here are the follow-up questions:

 

A tree that was never known by anyone including the tenant, or the landlord, to be considered a “hazard tree” prior to a windstorm, later falls and does no damage.  This tree was neither planted by the current tenant, nor the community.[1]  

 

Question No. 1. Given that there was no negligence by anyone, is the damage done by the windstorm considered an Act of God?

 

Question No. 2. With the tree now uprooted and lying on the ground, does it now present a hazard or meet the definition of a “hazard tree” thereby shifting the obligation to “maintain” a hazard tree to the Landlord?

 

Question No. 3. Does maintaining a tree include tree removal?

 

Question No. 4. Who is legally responsible to pay the expenses associated with the disposal of the tree?

Answer.  Wow! Asking me if God caused a windstorm could get me in trouble. What if I’m wrong? 

 

 

Phil Querin Q&A: Hazard Trees & The Root of the Problem

Question. Our park has Ash trees on most of the spaces, planted by the owners when the spaces were first occupied.  Most of the trees are between thirty and forty years old.

We routinely maintain the above-ground parts of the trees.  We prune and repair the trees as needed, and occasionally remove trees when necessary.  In some cases the roots have damaged walkways or street curbs, creating potential trip hazards.  When that happens we hire contractors to remove the damaged concrete and the intruding roots, and replace the concrete.  The park absorbs these costs.

My question has to do with other types of root damage.  We recently repaired damaged walkways and curbs at several spaces.  In addition to the damage we repaired, two residents complained of additional damage.  

In one case it appears that a root was lifting a pier block under the deck, causing the deck to rise at one corner.  I had the contractor cut the root while they were repairing the walkway, which should stop the root from growing, and the deck from lifting.  The resident has now demanded that I remove the root and re-level the deck.  This looks like a pretty big job that could easily snowball.

In another case the homeowner has noticed that the floor of the home is out of level.  It appears that a root is lifting one or more of the supports under the home.  I expect her to ask me to pay for getting the home re-leveled.

As the park owner, what is my responsibility for damage such as this to the manufactured home structure caused by tree roots?  These trees are all greater than 8 inches DBH.  It seems to me that if root intrusion issues are brought into the mix, any tree over 8 inches DBH would automatically be a hazard tree.  Is that really how we should be interpreting the law?

Phil Querin Q and A - How do we get a resident to remove trees they planted?

Question: We have a resident who has about 40 cottonwood trees in her yard.  She planted them some time ago. The trees are all about 50 feet in height and very overgrown.  I’m pretty sure they’ve never been trimmed or maintained.  We have had complaints recently from a neighbor that they are concerned with the safety of those trees in a storm.  We had an arborist inspect the trees and he deemed them a safety hazard and recommended taking them all out, as trimming would only escalate the growth speed of that species of trees. 

How do we get the resident to remove all of her trees?  My interpretation of the law is that because she is the person who planted them, she is responsible for the maintenance and/or removal of the trees.  Is that correct?  What if she sold her home and then we wanted the new resident to remove the trees?  Could the new resident avoid having to incur the cost of removal because they did not plant them?

I spoke with my insurance agent and they assured me we’re not liable to any damage done by a tree falling as that is an act of God.  So I guess my follow-up question is, why would we need to demand someone to remove or trim a tree for safety issues if we’re not liable for it?