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Alice H
Alice H, Solicitor/Partner
Category: UK Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 2850
Experience:  LLB (Hons) and 20 years legal experience
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Hi I have a large Blue Conifer (probably 30 or 40 mtrs)

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I have a large Blue Conifer (probably 30 or 40 mtrs) in my front garden, next to the road.
From time to time branches have snapped off, apparently under their own weight, but could also happen in the wind or snow.

I had it looked at by a tree surgeon several years ago (but didn't get a written report) he felt that it was in good condition and would be difficult to trim without it looking strange or loosing all it's character.

My question then is this; Am I liable if a branch should snap off and damage a parked car beneath ?

I realise there could also be a risk to a passing pedestrian, but I am less worried about this since the branches that have snapped off have done so with a loud crack and relatively slowly.

Would this sort of thing normally be covered by my house building insurance ?

My name isXXXXX and I am a Solicitor based in London. I'm happy to help with your question today.

As the owner you could be held liable if damage or injury is caused by a tree which is in a 'dangerous condition'.

A ‘dangerous tree’ is one that is in such a condition that there is a real danger of it causing damage to property or injury to people. This is an imminent danger and not something that might happen some time in the distant future.

Trees may become dangerous due to a singular event such as a storm, flood or vehicular damage in an accident resulting in part, or all, of the tree presenting a danger to the public.

Alternatively, a tree may reach a dangerous state by ongoing decay or disease, or may have been ‘pruned’ or grown in such a way as to have become structurally unsound.

A perceived danger is the “dangerous” often used to describe a tall tree or one close to a building. Here the tree is not necessarily in a dangerous condition, but is perceived to be dangerous because of its existence.

So the duty really is on you to make sure the tree is not in a dangerous condition - this includes keeping the tree trimmed and the branches in good condition.

If a tree becomes dangerous but you do nothing about it the local council has powers under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, Sections 23 & 24 (Dangerous Trees) to take action.

The above Act enables the council to take action in respect of ‘dangerous trees’ on private land. These powers are discretionary and are intended as a last resort.

If the council considers the tree to be imminently dangerous it can serve notice on the tree owner to make the tree safe within a specified time period. If the owner refuses to carry out works to make the tree safe the council can have the work done and recover expenses for the works from the owner or occupier. If the tree is not dangerous the council can not require any work is done to the tree.

Should there be an incident whereby damage is caused it is possible that your home insurance will cover any claims but you need to double check your policy.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Alex,



thanks for a very thorough answer, since the tree appears to be very sound and in very good condition (to me at least) and I have no reason to believe otherwise, is it necessary to have it inspected periodically by a tree surgeon?



I agree that it would be a good idea to have the tree inspected at least once a year especially as branches have fallen off in the past. At least an expert will be able to warn you of any imminent danger and should any claims be made you could argue that you have complied with your duty to ensure the tree is in a safe condition.
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