Who is at fault when a tree falls on a neighbouring property?

CALGARY- As Calgary neighbourhoods remain littered with branches after a summer snowstorm caused huge trees to tumble over, there are questions about exactly who is responsible for paying for the damage.

One of the biggest areas of confusion is what happens when someone’s tree falls and damages another person’s property. It turns out that the person whose vehicle or home was damaged should be the one filing an insurance claim.

“It doesn’t matter where the tree came from, it’s your policy that responds,” explains Robyn Young from the Insurance Brokers Association of Alberta. “Your homeowners policy, your auto policy would respond to the resulting damage from the falling object, whatever it may be.”

READ MORE: Cleanup continues after summer snow hits Calgary

As for who should be responsible for moving the actual tree, that’s a grey area.

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“It’s not an insurance issue, so it would be something like a good neighbour policy. If it’s your tree you probably should be removing it, but it’s really between you and your neighbour.”

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However, it’s up to homeowners to remove branches before they can do any more harm.

“If it’s on your property, it’s your responsibility to make sure that there’s no further damage to your property regardless of where the tree comes from.”

READ MORE: What to do if your yard was destroyed by the summer snowstorm

Arbourists have been flooded with calls over the past few days, prompting some residents to take on the cleanup themselves.

“Don’t get in over your head,” warns Keegan Seward from The Arborest Expert Tree Services. “If it’s off the ground that’s probably where I’d draw the line. Anything which is lying on the ground can be cut up into small pieces and dragged out of the yard.

He adds that homeowners should also be careful about where debris is landing.

“Bringing down trees, you can hurt a lot of things fast. Fences which are expensive to repair, roofs, eavestroughs, even concrete.”

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The city is asking Calgarians to simply pile up tree limbs for now, until they devise a plan to pick it up. Debris can also be dropped off at landfills free of charge.

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