[OPINION] Chop Down Current Tree Law

In the wake of last month’s storms — Isaias and an unnamed one that caused massive damage — many Westporters learned that if a neighbor’s tree lands on your property (or house), and you have not warned him or her about the danger, you are responsible for removing it.

And for repairing any damage on your property.

Alert — and concerned — “06880” reader Marliese Aguele writes:

The law that requires a neighbor to remove and pay for a fallen tree is most unfair. It puts the burden and expense on somebody else.

No more free rides. I wanat the law be changed immediately. Owners make no effort to pay, or offer any help. This is unacceptable to a neighbor, who takes care by trimming his own trees.

Because residents know they are not liable to pay for the removal of their fallen trees on the neighbor’s property, they have no incentive to take care of them.

Falling trees do not respect property lines.(Photo/John Kantor)

I have had personal experience. A friend lives in a small house near the beach, with a neighbor located on an elevated property behind him. She has refused for over 20 years to trim her tree. It gets larger every year. He is struggling financially. He constantly worries that should the huge tree fall, his house and cars will be destroyed, and maybe the lives of his family.

A property owner must be responsible to trim his trees regularly to avoid unfair arboreal problems, making it easier for the town to deal with overgrown branches entangled in communication and electric power lines, incurring major expenses to the town and heavy losses to its citizens.

With predictions of more frequent storms in the future, it is in the best interest for citizens to do their share, helping with an already stressed town budget.

I have decided, at great expense, to have several tall trees removed. I can no longer live with the fear, and alone, worrying if my trees should fall and destroy my home, or were to fall on a neighbor’s house.

It is time to change the law. Someone who owns a tree should be responsible for removing the debris, and pay for all damage caused to a neighbor’s property.

28 responses to “[OPINION] Chop Down Current Tree Law

  1. You should start by writing all your neighbors and asking them to trim their trees!

  2. I totally agree! This rule makes no sense at all. I have notified the adjacent property owner ( who rents and does nothing to upkeep his property) thru certified letter and other means to no avail. Several trees on his property border and hang over my property ( house and driveway) dropping limbs frequently. One almost hit my grandchild playing near my garage recently.
    I’m responsible to my neighbors for any other situation that affects my neighbors, such as water flowing onto their property. Why aren’t they responsible for potentially causing damage to mine if their tree falls causing loss to me?
    There are so many valid reasons this law ( if that’s what it is) defies common sense.
    It needs to be changed.
    Ps these trees have been inspected by an arborist and judged unsafe. With the very real potential of the next storm I pray these trees somehow fall on his property!

  3. Michael Isaacs

    Stop wasting your time dreaming about changing the laws and just cut down the dangerous branches or trees. Most likely we all bought our houses aware of the trees around them. Trees grow. I’m taking down a big one next week in my backyard. There goes $1,900. There was another between my and the neighbor’s property that had huge branches come down in the hurricane. We split the cost. The branches took my wires down, not hers. Mother Nature decides which trees and branches fall next. If your house is in danger of them, do something about it now. Home ownership means having to spend big bucks sometimes. Complaining about a law that would take years to change, if it ever even does change, is a waste of time.

    • Your negative attitude will mean nothing ever changes for the better. I would venture to say to don’t vote because that might be another waste of time per you. I’ll continue to want laws that reflect protection against people who don’t care about their property or others.
      Wonder why states insist on people who drive cars to have insurance?

  4. Cheryl McKenna Kritzer

    Write to your RTM representatives and your state representatives ( running for district 136)
    Then cc your governor and state Senators .
    All politics is local , start there and obviously I agree this statute or law or whatever they call this tree policy has to change as then the owners will take better care of their own trees. These storms will continue this winter and time is of the essence in my humble opinion. Good luck!

  5. This is not a town law, or a state law. The thing to do is to write your neighbors who have tall, or rotted trees to put them on notice. That part is the remedy for you to use, already written into the law.

    I had the same experience, I paid to have my then neighbors‘ trees to be topped. Now we are joining to top them further. The trees are enjoyed by both of us!

    • If you say it’s not a town law or state law.. then whose law is it? If it even is a law! And no I don’t enjoy these trees since all they do is drop nuts , branches in my driveway near my garage. Can’t even park a car there no less than worrying about a branch falling on someone. And these people who don’t take care of THEIR trees are many times responsible for our power outages.

  6. Westporters choose the strangest hills to die on.

  7. Gerald F. Romano, Jr.

    I believe if your NEIGHBOR doesn’t help pay any cost to your property destruction caused by their TREE they are not your neighbor they are just
    My neighbor’s tree fell onto my property after a storm they took care of it and paid all the costs / these are my NEIGHBORS
    Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me
    Gerald F. Romano, Jr.

  8. Lucy Ambrosino

    As long as the tree owner takes care of their trees, a tree falling because of a storm or “act of God”, as insurance companies refer to it, is not the tree owners fault. Property owners may certainly trim branches that grow into their property. However, home owners should take care of their trees to assure dead trees are removed and healthy trees thinned or trimmed on their side of the property line. I agree with writer who said the neighbor’s trees are probably there when you buy your house. Why blame your neighbor if a storm causes them to fall on your property.

  9. From what I recall, in the case of your tree falling across a roadway or street, the Town is responsible to remove any tree debris up to your property line.

  10. Bill Strittmatter

    I was curious what CT law said on the subject so did a quick search. At least as of 2017, there is no CT law that addresses trees falling on neighbors property nor puts liability on the neighbor even if they have been warned that their tree is dangerous. In fact, Gov Malloy apparently vetoed legislation covering the latter in 2014.

    Further, case law apparently suggests that warning a neighbor of a dangerous tree doesn’t protect you even under common law which is the opposite of what many people (including me) thought.

    Maybe things have changed since then or an attorney would have a different point of view but apparently this comes up with the legislature on a regular basis with no action.


  11. Mary Ann Neilson

    There is another side to the law. A property owner can remove any portion of a tree that is over their property line.

  12. A great resource is the book by Nolo, Neighbor Law-Fences, Trees, Boundaries and more. As long as you send a letter (send certified so they cannot claim non-receipt) letting them know that an arborist deemed their tree either dead, or diseased or health compromised and a danger, and that you are asking them to remove it otherwise they will be liable to pay for any damage to your property. Should they not take any action and that tree later falls on your property, you can seek damages against them since you advised them of the danger. I have done this several times with one of my neighbors and he has in fact taken down 4 diseased and dying trees.

  13. Lawrence Robinson

    I agree that trees identified by arborists as diseased or dead, constituting
    a hazard to neighboring property, should be taken down; and it is helpful if neighbors point that out. As regards healthy trees, however, the issue of storm damage often first arises because developers clear cut neighboring property and then erect dwellings close to the property line, removing the natural protection of other trees and exposing property to potential damage for the first time. In this case, trees become hazardous due to the choices of developers and their successors and to the Town of Westport for permitting such hazards to arise. In the event that anxiety warrants it, those parties
    should approach the tree owner for permission to remove the trees and offer to pay the expenses. Of course it would be expected that persons making such requests remove trees on their own property which could conceivably damage their dwellings in a storm. It will frequently be found that owners of
    healthy tall trees originally purchased their property knowing and valuing
    tall trees and willing for the sake of beauty and natural surroundings to
    run the risk that trees may fall on their dwellings.

    • That’s where I disagree why should someone other than the neighbor who has the damaged trees pay for their removal. When pools are put in the town requires all kinds of certifications that ground water around the pool area does not in any way adversely affect the neighbors. What is the difference?
      The owner of these trees need to pay for their removal or trimming.

  14. It does get more challenging in the “private road” neighborhoods, depending on the folks who live there, as the town doesn’t usually get involved. We’ve had our up & downs with residents – some who cooperate with tree issues and some who do not.

  15. Frannie Southworth

    Being a decent human being and good neighbor is good enough incentive for me and my husband. He has an arborist come every two years to do a complete assessment of our trees’ health and discuss possibilities of which trees might come down in a storm. We then take action on the recommendations and we even did so when they were on the property line and our neighbor declined to chip in. We weren’t happy about doing this but a tree falling on our house would be much more costly by at least a factor of ten, than doing the proper maintenance. It serves everyone to do this. 💙☮️💙

  16. I think the law makes perfect sense. It’s not usually possible to predict which trees will fail in a bad storm. In the case of the friend at the beach, he has pointed out the problem trees to the neighbor, so on that case the neighbor will be responsible, correct?

  17. I have contacted Senator Will Haskell about this issue. I would suggest anyone who feels that they should not bear the responsibility and financial hardship of maintaining their neighbors trees do the same.
    I found that the existing is only common law and can be changed with support from people who want this to reflect common sense!
    Contact your Senator Haskell 860 240 0068 or 203 856 0873.

  18. To Peter Blau. No your not correct .. as the common law exists the neighbor whose tree falls on another property would NOT be responsible

  19. Incorrect email for Senator Will Haskell