How about a tree story?

I really miss the old Fatwallet tree stories. Never thought I’d have one of my own, but here it goes…

Neighbor 1 is next door, and has a large tree on the back corner of their lot next to me. I’m pretty sure it’s on his property, and he takes responsibility, so great, I never worried about it. It’s about 200 feet behind our houses on the back property line, up a hill through an old growth wooded area. The tree had housed a bees nest a couple years ago, and has some visible rot in the trunk. It has a diameter more than 2 feet, and a commensurate height.

Neighbor 2 is behind us. And has complained (to neighbor 1) about the tree being a hazzard. Neighbor 1 has had 2 companies look at it, both saying it isn’t going anywhere. I’m told the landlord of the places behind us also agreed it posed no danger beyond being a large tree. I understand Neighbor 2’s concern, but no action was indicated.

Today, the tree came down.

Neighbor 2 decided to cut down. The entire thing fell across my property, and when I wandered back to see what the hell was going on, they were cutting away at it like I was just a bystander. N2 was there, and said she paid to have it taken down because no one else would take responsibility (said she called the power company, the city, the county). Said someone was coming to remove the tree, and they would be clearing the brush.

What’s done is done, so “can she do that” is a ship that’s already sailed. But, WTF? This is on someone else’s property! And without any notice! We have 5 kids combined, including 2 8 year olds who play in those woods. And this is a pretty massive tree that came down without warning.

Frankly, N1 doesn’t care, it’s a potential hassle for him that’s been taken care of, at no cost to him. And I have no problem with my land being used as the landing strip. And neither has any interest in starting a neighborhood dispute, legally or otherwise. But speaking in terms of potential consequences, is there anything we can or should do to get in front of any future grief? I’m thinking of contacting the police to get a report on file documenting the ‘incident’ and make it clear that wasn’t appropriate or authorized, just in case she tries to forward the bill to one of us or doesn’t follow thru on cleaning up the mess. I was also thinking that the tree is still either N1’s or mine (it’s on my land, but it’s essentially stolen property at this point), but neither of us are motivated to stake a claim and try to monetize the wood - I’m happy with someone else cleaning up what I’d be responsible for had it fallen on its own. We’re really just miffed that this potentially dangerous task was done on our properties without even mentioning it in advance - but like I said at the top, it’s already done and we can’t demand the tree be of back up. I’m mostly resigned to being a little miffed then forgetting about it, unless someone brings up other legit things to be concerned about.

Thoughts? Comments? Missing details that may be relevant?


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Great story!

Of course if the tree’s owner were so disposed he could bring an action against both the company that took down the tree and the woman who hired that company. But you are saying the tree’s owner is good with it all. So forget about that outcome.

Your dilemma is somewhat different. You were uninvolved until the tree landed on your property. I’m a little shocked a pro outfit would even have felled the tree in that way. But set that aside.

Your concern is potential liability should there be injury of any sort during the cleanup. You did not hire the tree outfit so you do not know their insurance standing. They will be carrying accident insurance if they are a larger, pro, outfit. If not, you could be on the hook for a bad outcome on your property. Chainsaws are dangerous and accidents do happen. Laborer backs up with chainsaw running, trips, rips leg open, says it happened because you failed to maintain your property correctly. Far fetched? Yup. But this is 2020 and stranger things have happened.

Beyond that there is the pure trespass, which however appears not to be bothering you one whit. So be it. That would not be my reaction but to each his own and it surely is your right not to be concerned.

I guess your only remaining worry is a cleanup poorly executed . . . . unless you have a fireplace, I suppose. :grinning:


Me, too, but you’d be shocked at some of the ways I’ve seen some of these so-called tree companies operate. I hired a big outfit to take down a huge willow tree in my backyard last year. They came out with several pieces of multi-million dollar equipment. Safety gear to the max for a whole crew. The job was done, including stump grinding, in 2 hours, from start to finish. I’ve never seen a more professional job. In contrast, my next door neighbor had a much smaller tree removed last month. It looked like a grandfather, father, teenage son amateur hour. A chainsaw, hacksaw, rope, and a pickup truck. No safety equipment. They tied a rope to the top of the tree and tied the other end to the pickup truck. The father took a chainsaw to the trunk several feet up from the ground. The teenage son stood there and flipped a hacksaw around in his bare hands to amuse himself, coming perilously close to his legs at times. The grandfather got in the pickup truck and tried to drive away to fell the tree. Well, it took 3 tries after repeated bouts of chainsawing for it to work. The tree fell down right on the part of the homeowner’s fence that was still standing after a large part of it blew down in heavy April windstorms. They were still sawing away at the tree in the evening with hacksaws. They were there at least 8 hours for a tree that was a fraction of the size of the willow I’d had taken down last year. They didn’t even grind the stump.

If you can do anything @glitch99, maybe record them when they’re working on your property. That way if anything goes wrong, you’ve got proof.

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That’s me you’re describing when felling a tree. Very nearly was badly injured some years back. Tree didn’t go where I thought it would after I chainsawed it. Knocked me over but an indirect hit and I was a little shaken up but OK. Lots of years before that I took down a huge tulip poplar tree, at least seventy feet tall, with my 18,000# backhoe . . . just pushed her over. That tree went where I wanted it to go, lucky for me. Then ended up tearing a muscle in my arm trying to move the huge chunks of wood after I cut that tree up.

Bottom line: I’m scared of trees now. Respectful of what can go wrong. I no longer mess with 'em. Older and wiser.

As for glitch99: don’t take anything for granted. If it can go wrong, with trees it just might.


Dont get me wrong, it bothers me. But at this point there’s no undoing it. And making an issue of it now will only leave me with a large tree to clean up.

I suspect the clean up will be little more than a local who wants the firewood. Safety/injury is a concern, but Im not sure how to address it without turning it into a battle (I doubt “you need to clean this up, but only with a proper company I approve” would be complied with voluntarily).

Those who took it down were obviously a “crew”, but was clearly amateurish (and possibly the ones taking the wood?). I doubt either of us would’ve approved (edit: ok, I probably would’ve, since I bore no potential liability if it fell the wrong way), but again, we cant make them put the tree back up so I dont know what there is to gain from making a stink.

I remain torn between contacting the police to get a trespass/vandalism report on record to establish my position just in case, or keep myself ignorant of what they’re doing out of sight.

I’d probably do it depending on my relationship with neighbor 2. If somebody gets injured while removing the fallen tree from your property, this would protect you from liability if they’re not insured. Also, if the cut tree does not get removed by someone looking for free firewood, it’s on your lap to deal with rotting and disposal.

With a trespass + vandalism report, you can “persuade” neighbor to remove it at their expense. Of course, you could first talk to them about having it removed within a set period of time before filing the report to give them an out. But personally, I’d go with police report for liability reasons and to make sure they don’t mess with things on my property flippantly in the future.


I’m respectful of the quandary here. One safe thing I would do instantly, if not sooner, is contact my own liability insurance carrier (my agent), explain the situation in detail, and seek their counsel.

Even if your agent does not personally have input for you, he/she has access to knowledgeable persons within the company who do. Your agent might, for example, provide you a release (from liability) to be signed by the tree “experts”, by the neighbor who hired them, or even by both parties. Or, just as easily, the counsel might simply be “don’t worry about it”.

It is pretty cheeky, in my view, for that neighbor to think she can (in effect) operate on your land, absent your prior consent, without fear or consequence. When people try that on my land I give 'em (verbal) hell. But that’s me.


Good thinking. I guess as long as it’s clear that you’re not filing a claim or anything (you don’t want that on your CLUE report), that may be a good idea to pick your insurance agent’s brain for potential liability issues. I guess it’d depend on your relationship with your agent too.

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I’ve always been of the opinion that you do not take the risk of calling, unless you can remain entirely hypothetical and without providing any personal/identifiable information - which means most places will not provide any useful answers, if they even entertain your questions at all. And in this case, there is no personal/local agent to have an informal conversation with, any call would be to a call center.

I’ve inquired with the local police via the city website. I will follow their advice if I get a response within a day. Otherwise I intend to hand deliver a formal notice to cease and desist all trespassing, and demanding the damage be remedied by a licensed and insured company, and only after obtaining my express permission to begin the work. I’ll knock and try to have a civil conversation if anyone answers, otherwise leave it in their door. And of course, follow up by mailing the same notice certified.

And if I happen to hear chain saws in the meantime (foliage prevents us from seeing the back of the property without walking halfway back), I intend to immediately kick them off my property. I kind of hope that does happen, and I hope it’s when I’m having a bad day - the results could spice this story up exponentially :slight_smile: .

Interesting. And completely different from my own situation. I have a business relationship with my agent, on a face to face person to person basis, that goes back many years. I would not hesitate to seek her counsel on something like this because I’m confident she would try her best to assist me and not mess me up.

If I had only an impersonal call center at my disposal, well, things would be different.

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Now that should be an interesting exchange. And if your neighbor tells you to go pound sand what is your next move? Perhaps a threat to sue? Because if you need to hire a lawyer you could be running up your expenses rather quickly.

The neighbor sounds like a wack job anyway. So if you tell her she cannot continue the cleanup without meeting your expensive terms, her reaction might be to stop all cleanup work and leave you with a mess at the rear of your property.

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I just hope your police department is not overwhelmed with err… other current stuff to pay attention to your inquiry.

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That’s the fear. But she’s really just a middle aged women with a relatively recently deceased husband who was stressing about this “questionable” (in her opinion) tree crushing her house.

I’ve already spoke with her this morning, when she came out while I was taking some pictures. After some initial tense posturing (and a 17 year old daughter who really needs to learn to keep her mouth shut), she realized I wasnt just being an ass, and that she had in fact handled it improperly.

I’ve basically agreed to accept liability waivers from those helping her (a couple neighbors, from what I understood) with the cleanup/removal, and her indemnifying me. It’s not ideal, but as you said there’s only expense involved if it becomes a legal fight, and I really have no desire to press charges (if that’s even an option). So demanding more has a high risk of being counterproductive. And I do preferring being at peace with the neighbors.

Besides, my property goes up a hill - so they’d have the high ground, should the shooting start :wink: .

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Could you clarify one or two points, please.

Was her concern regarding the tree harming her house legit? I did not understand the tree was that close to a home. If a storm could have felled the tree, with it landing on her home, I’m more sympathetic to her position.

Fine, so long as you get it all in writing. And who draws up the forms?


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The neighboring (very small) city declared a “preemptive” state of emergency yesterday (seriously), in anticipation of the 10 people who showed up to hang out on the sidewalk for a bit last night (and I think half of them thought it was a ‘legalize pot’ rally). But my (very small) city hasnt seen nearly that level of excitement. Although Walmart did close early one night and barricade their doors with shopping carts and pallets of bottle water - even though they’re in a location more likely to be the dumping ground for a serial killer than a catalyst for rioting.

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Yes, it could easily destroy her home, or 1-2 others depending how it fell. The tree is(was) right at the back property line, where there’s a road, with homes directly on the other side of the road. And the tree trunk had visible damage that I understand could cause concern, even though professionals dismissed it as not being a danger (beyond the normal potential danger from being a big tree). From a liability standpoint there was no need to take action, but as the potential target of a falling tree I understand her concern completely.

She’s going to write something up and bring it by before doing any further cleanup. If it’s too crude, I’ll draw it up myself. I consider the value to be in having or not having the statement, not in the formality/legalese used. She’s not going to try to slip in some crafty loophole to create wiggle room (and if she does, I’ll catch it).

Wow! That must have been one HECK of a tree!

I withdraw my characterization of your neighbor as a wack job. I did not understand the tree could have wiped out her home. While she still could have handled the situation better, I’m more sympathetic to her worry and distress.

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I’m estimating it was a good 100ft tall. Back there the houses are small and close together; two are clearly in the tree’s fall radius, another one would be close. It’s not the typical tree you find in such stories where neighbors take it upon themselves to hack down someone’s tree.

Yeah, that was one heckuva tree. I’ve never dealt with any tree that tall. I have tens of acres of trees here on my property. The tallest of them is probably only about 80 feet tall. Hundred foot tall trees are scary.

Your neighbor is lucky, given the tree was not felled by a pro, that it did not hit her home, or some other home, when the amateurs brought it down.