Laws on the Responsibility for Fallen Trees in Florida

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Fallen trees can damage property and even cause injuries.
Fallen trees can damage property and even cause injuries. (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

The destructive force of nature is something that any homeowner in Florida faces, from minor storms to full-scale hurricanes. When a storm occurs, you need to consider potential damage to your home and personal property as well as the property of your neighbors. When a tree on your property falls over during a storm, you are generally responsible for the damage.

Florida Law

Florida law puts the responsibility for fallen trees on the homeowner. When trees are close to your property line, then the law determines the owner by looking at the trunk of the tree. If the trunk sits primarily on your property, then you are the owner. If the tree sits right in the middle of two properties, then both owners are responsible for the tree. You cannot touch a tree that belongs to your neighbor, but you can remove portions that sit over your property, such as tree branches.

Cleanup

The owner of a fallen tree is responsible for the cleanup and any damages caused by the tree. If you and a neighbor shared responsibility and ownership of the tree due to property lines, then you should split the cost of the cleanup equally. You may need to discuss the situation with your neighbor, and in some cases, a lawsuit might be the only recourse to an equitable settlement if both parties cannot agree.

Exceptions

When you file a lawsuit to receive compensation for a fallen tree, you must prove that the tree fell because it was damaged or diseased. Trees that fall as the result of natural disasters, including storms, are not the fault of your neighbor. Likewise, your neighbor cannot expect you to pay for damages caused as the result of a storm that knocks down a tree you own. You will likely be responsible for the cleanup costs but not any damages.

Considerations

Florida homeowner’s insurance generally covers issues related to fallen trees, especially when the trees fall as the result of a natural disaster. As soon as an issue arises, contact your insurance agent and ask about your coverage. The insurance should cover the cost of cleaning up the tree and any resultant damage, including roof repair. You will likely need to pay a deductible, with the insurance company covering the remaining costs.

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