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legalgems
legalgems, Arbitrator
Category: Real Estate Law
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A tree from my neighbor's property fell on my property

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a tree from my neighbor's property fell on my property causing a small amount of roof damage. I'll handle the roof damage, but under Georgia law, can I cut the tree into manageable portions and return it to the tree owner's property if I do not cause damage?
JA: Because real estate law varies from place to place, can you tell me what state this is in?
Customer: Georgia
JA: Has any paperwork been filed?
Customer: Yes, with the insurance company making them aware of the neighbor's trees being a liability to my property, his own property, and his neighbor on the other side for his neglect in maintaining his trees. A claim has not, and most likely will not be made at this time.
JA: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: I'm more concerned with the actual cutting up and removing the tree from my grass, and placing it back on the owner's property for him to haul away or hire someone to do so.

Hello! I will be reviewing your question and posting a response momentarily; if you have any follow up questions please respond here. Thanks!

Customer: replied 28 days ago.
Other than trespassing, are there any issues if I cut this tree into manageable pieces and place it back onto the property without causing damage?

I am sorry to hear that you had damage from the tree.

Under GA law, a neighboring owner may trim that part of the tree that encroaches on to their land, up to the boundary line, provided that due care is taken and the tree is not harmed/destroyed in the process (if harmed/destroyed, the tree owner can sue for damages).

As for the portion on the neighboring land, it is the neighboring landowner's duty to dispose of the wood. If the wood is placed on the tree owner's property they can sue for trespass.

If the tree itself poses future threat (ie unhealthy) then the neighboring landowner can seek an injunction which orders the tree owner to remove, at the tree owner's cost, the entire tree.

Please see:

http://www.ojs.dekalbga.org/battling-with-neighbors-over-tree-removal-and-property-damage-laws/

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Customer: replied 28 days ago.
If I did not physically go onto the original tree owner's property, but instead placed the wood over a fence onto his property, is that still trespassing if I never physically stepped onto his property?

Unfortunately yes, because it is the act of "reaching over" the boundary line that would constitute trespass as that would be an entry without permission.

Customer: replied 28 days ago.
ok, is "throwing over" without reaching over the property trespassing?
Customer: replied 28 days ago.
is the wood considered his property? aside from trespassing and reaching over, is it his actual property?

When a person willfully causes an object to trespass on a person's property then that does constitute trespass.

The wood that is on the neighboring property, when it falls, is the neighbor's property - that is why they are allowed to trim it, so long as damage is not caused.

Customer: replied 28 days ago.
in layman's terms...getting neighboring and neighbor all mixed up here...
so what your saying is...the tree automatically is my property once it has fallen on my property. I cannot place it back on their property without their permission otherwise it is trespassing. Can I imply that it is still their property and with their permission place it back on their land?Could it technically be argued that the tree is still theirs and then with their permission I place it back on their property? What if they wanted to take it from me, and I wanted it. Could they argue that it was theirs and they want it back?this is my final question.
Customer: replied 28 days ago.
Not a crazy person here, they've been told by two tree companies the trees were dangerous. I failed to send a certified letter. I had an arborist even tell them they were dangerous. I'm already out $700 due to it pulling power line boxes off my home, renting a generator, and now I get to pay for roof repairs and siding repairs. I have enough energy left to cut the tree up, but my finances are depleted and cannot pay someone to haul it off.Could the wood be considered theirs legally, and it can be put back on the property with their permission.

Unfortunately, once the tree falls, it belongs (the portion that fell) to the person who owns the underlying property that the limb/branch is on.

If the parties agree that the tree owner wants possession of it, then it is legal and possible for the parties to agree to change ownership.

The tree owner (of the tree, not the detached limb) cannot unilaterally claim the limb is theirs once it is on another's property-unless both parties agree to that effect.

I know the law doesn't make much sense; under normal negligence and property ownership theories, the tree owner would be responsible but the courts have carved out an exception for trees.

One moment-let me review your post that just came through.

If there are professional opinions that the tree was dangerous due to disease, for example, then the tree owner can be liable because the owner of the tree does have a duty of care and must remove dangerous conditions that they are aware of. Since it is not a blanket requirement (ie no duty to inspect) one would need to prove knowledge before the court imposed liability.

Customer: replied 28 days ago.
okay, no time for court, covering my butt here...just figuring out my big weekend plans. I don't want my grass to die. lol. thanks for your time, I do appreciate it.

You are welcome!

Some neighbors will work together to find a mutually beneficial solution- for example, if someone wants the wood for firewood...

Thank you and try and enjoy your weekend!

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