This question is for William B Esq. - Common Element Liability & Power Lines
Last week, our Association had a large tree located on our common elements and near a main road front fall over and it snapped three 34,000 volt power lines which landed on the street at 5:30 AM during a week day. The several foot diameter tree also blocked this main road. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
The same thing happened a year ago (a large tree fell, snapped the same power lines, and blocked the road). Our Association is over 25 years old and trees have been allowed to grow wild in wooded areas near the road front and also near homes. In 2010, the Board's landscape committee advised the Board that dangerous trees were on the common element property (large trees, likely to fail and in areas that would cause either property damage, injuries, or both). The Landscape Committee advised that an arborist should be brought in examine the trees. In 2012, individual homeowners also expressed concern in writring to the Board that dangerous trees exist on the property; nothing was done.
In 2014, a homeowner contacted their homeowner insurance company and the insurance carrier informed the board they would contest damages to the homeowners home as not being an act of God if the trees that were likely to fail, fell on the home. This time a few trees were removed near that one home.
Who is liable if a common element tree falls and causes injury? Is it the Board's responsibility? Would the HOA be responsible? What happens if damages exceed the HOA's insurance coverage? To get back to the example last week, the high voltage wires snapped and fell down to where the school bus stop is located. Had the tree fallen an hour later, there would have been 15 children standing in that location.
Lastly for the road front issues, some people are saying it is the power company's or the local government's responsibility not the land owners to take care of the trees.
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