A few nights ago my husband and I heard a tree crash down in a neighbor’s backyard. It landed away from her house but across two of her other neighbors’ yards. I called to see if she was all right. She was fine and no one was hurt. Then she called me to ask about contacting my tree guy. Bill Eck is an arborist who has has written pieces on tree care for Forest Hills Connection.
Bill periodically looks at my trees to alert me to any disease, or tell me what needs to be trimmed or have its weight redistributed by cabling. We have a wooded lot with three large oaks and a variety of smaller trees. It is my ancient oaks that get most of the attention and are the most expensive to maintain. But I have always thought they were worth the investment, both in maintaining their magnificence and in reducing the risk they’ll fall and cause extensive damage.
So what do you do when a tree comes down and impacts your neighbors? My neighbor contacted her insurance company. She found out that her insurance will cover only the damage done to her own property. This is the same for each of her neighbors who were impacted. Each will have to go through their own insurance company. Bill Eck confirmed this when he came out the next day to check my trees and take away my neighbor’s tree. Only if neglect can be proven will the tree owner’s insurance cover the neighbors’ damages. The Washington Post covered this in some detail after Hurricane Sandy.
In the end, it looks like the best and least costly option is to be a gracious neighbor… and to hire an arborist to look after your trees. This does not come cheap, but it is cheaper than dealing with the destruction of a downed tree. Right now I am giving my trees a good trim to clear dead wood and cut back a long heavy limb that extends far into a neighbor’s yard. It is being supported by the trunk of another tree, but a strong wind could dislodge it. My hickory out front is being trimmed back from my neighbor’s yard. This maintenance also protects the investment I have made in my own plantings. They run less risk now of being crushed by dead limbs dislodged by strong winds.
Now, less risk doesn’t mean no risk. Despite the best care and planning, nature can have other ideas. But one of the reasons we love Forest Hills is its extensive tree canopy. And we are its guardians. It is in our best interest to maintain our trees.