Phil Querin Q&A: Tree Outside of MHC Damages House inside MHC

Want access to MHCO content?

For complete access to forms, conference presentations, community updates and MHCO columns, log in to your account or register.

January 21, 2013

Question: While doing an inspection with my manager, she showed me a large tree branch that had fallen onto a resident’s home in our park. The issue here is that the tree is located on neighboring land and not in our community. The resident whose home was damaged had an arborist out to view the tree and said that the tree was a hazard. What rights and responsibilities do we have in a situation like this?

Answer: First, this is not an issue that is addressed – or can be addressed – in our “hazard tree” discussions that the MHCO has been having recently in the landlord-tenant coalition meetings. This tree is not located in the park, so is not strictly a landlord “habitability” issue. However, under certain circumstances it could be. Clearly, community management does not have authority to cross over onto another’s land and cut down the tree – or even trim it. However, if the branches of the tree extend into the community’s airspace, it may legally be trimmed by park management. If it is feasible to do so, and done in a manner that is safe and responsible, it should be done. Park management should consult an arborist before proceeding, in order to avoid trimming that could damage or injure the tree itself. Additionally, the property owner next door should be notified about the fallen limb. This is for two reasons: (a) So the owner can secure his/her own expert advice on what to do to the tree to prevent a reoccurrence, and (b) to notify his/her insurance carrier. Whether the resident has a claim against the park owner is hard to tell without knowing more. If the branch extended into the community and was believed to be a potential problem for some time, but ignored by management, then perhaps there is a claim. But the stronger claim is likely against the owner of the tree itself, especially if it had not been properly cared for as a “hazard tree.” If a claim is asserted against the park owner, he/she should bring a similar claim against the neighbor whose tree it was. Then let the insurance carriers work it out.