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Understanding Your Tree Responsibilities

If a tree branch falls in your neighborhood, whose responsibility is it?

Well, if you’re reading this then it’s fair to say you care about trees. (Thank you! We do too!) At St. Louis Tree Pros, we care about protecting our trees, property and loved ones. But that also includes our neighbor’s property – and not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because what’s good for your neighbor is usually good for you too (ie. they raise their property value; you raise yours). That’s why it’s important to always be aware of what trees and limbs may be a liability to your property or your neighbors.

Please note: Our on-staff arborist is certified by the International Society of Arboriculture and thus the data that we share is based on their approved findings and literature.

Bad storms can mean big trouble for St. Louis residents

This summer has brought many powerful storms to the area and damaged property for many St. Louis residents. Imagine being at home feeling safe and dry inside when all of a sudden: CRASH! BOOM! Lightning strikes! Winds blowing! Your favorite shade tree has just broken off a limb and crashed into your living room taking the TV and your Walking Dead episode along with it.

If the tree that just entered your living room was perfectly healthy, then you can breathe easy because your insurance company will most likely cover the repairs and clean up (we can do the actual work, just call!). But if the tree was already rotting or in poor shape, you might be the one to cover the bill.

But what if the limb went into your neighbor’s property? While ordinances and court rulings can vary from city to city, in most cases, if the trunk of a tree is growing on your property, the tree and all its branches are your responsibilities. You could be found negligent if an injured tree limb falls onto your neighbor’s property, damaging it. That’s why it’s important to protect yourself by knowing the health of your trees. While storm damage can wreak havoc on trees and property, a healthy tree can usually withstand the elements.

BOTTOM LINE: Damage to property will not be considered “An Act of God” if the tree is in poor health, thus making you liable for damage to another’s property.

Preventative work on your trees – who does it?

In addition, your neighbor owns everything within their property lines, including above and below ground. This means if a branch is hovering over their garage, they are able to have it removed from your tree, in most cases. In this situation, it’s ideal for the two parties involved to discuss the tree with a professional and make the best decision from a safety standpoint while also considering the health and value of the tree.

 Things are different in the city, ever heard of a Tree Lawn?

A tree lawn is the stretch of grass and usually trees in the strip of land between your sidewalk and the curb. The trees that grow on this strip are owned and maintained by the city. In accordance with the St. Louis City Ordinance 68607, if there are issues of hazardous limbs, damage to the street poles, etc., the city is responsible for pruning or, in some cases, removing the tree.

Want to spruce up your city street? 

Think twice about planting on your own. The city is also responsible for plantings. The commissioner of Forestry must decide what species of tree to plant that will best suit the site. You could be fined for taking matters into your own hands. But don’t worry too much about an open space. The city must replace each tree removed so there is no net loss of trees for the city, and if the conditions allow, the replacement tree should be planted within 500 feet of the removed tree.

When in doubt, contact your local municipality or your insurance company for more information on liabilities and ordinances in your area. It’s their job to help you navigate the system. It’s our job to keep you and your trees safe.

Contact St. Louis Tree Pros for a free tree care consultation today because preventative measures are always safest!