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Question DetailsAsked on 3/21/2018

R & L Tree Service in Mount Laurel damaged my gutter but says it is not their responsibility. Is it?

A neighbor's tree on their property split about 15' above ground. One section bent over onto my garage roof with just the branches resting on the roof as the split trunk was still attached to their tree. There was no damage to my roof or gutter due to the fact the section was suspended high above the roof. The neighbor hired R & L Tree Service to remove the tree. They came & cut all the branches touching my roof which resulted in the now free limb to come crashing down on my roof. I saw that the limb cracked a shingle and smashed in a section of the gutter. I have photos of the gutter roof before they cut the limb down, during and the after damage. My homeowner's said they wouldn't cover damage as it was caused by "3rd party contractor". The owner of the tree company said that if they cause damage taking down a "dangerous" limb, they weren't responsible. They never put down anything on the roof to protect it or secured the limb with ropes. Sloppy job & company that doesn't take respons

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4 Answers

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Obviously only an attorney could give you a definitive read on their liability, but here is my take on your situation.


1) first, if you signed anything with the neighbor or tree company, including specifically anything stating their liability for damage during the removal, that would probably control.


2) I agree partly with your insurance company about the thrid-party contractor thing - but did you make it clear (assuming this is the case) that they were working for a neighbor, not you ? Makes a big difference.


3) About the company having no liability for dangerous limb removal - bull pucky. They are liable for damage as a result of their work, subject to any waiver of liability you may have signed. I would file a claim against THEIR insurance - you will need firm bid(s) for the roof and gutter damage repair costs.


4) Ultimately, again subject to anything you signed, the neighbor/neighbor's insurance would be liable for your damage in most states - though as I recall in a few unless it was a known and forewarned hazard tree might be your responsibilityt. But generally, damage from impact from material falling from a neighbor's tree is their responsibility, including damage from any contractor doing work on their property or in removing portions of their tree.


So - you have four recourses, subject to any waiver or agreement you signed - reconfirm with your insurer that you are not covered - they should probably cover it and then recoer from the contractor's or neighbor's insurer. If not, then you go after contractor's or neighbor's insurer for payment. Last resort failing success there (which should not be a big issue since you have before and after pictures) would be a small claim court action against the neighbor and the contractor.

Answered 7 months ago by LCD

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In rereading my response after it posted, I realize I may have not made one thing clear - if the contractor has a policy (which would disqualify him from my contrator list) that he is not responsible for damage from removing "dangerous trees" or such (which pretty much means any tree being cut or felled), UNLESS he communicated that policy to you BEFORE the damage was done, it has no applicability to you. A company can have whatever policy they want - if it is not made part of service agreements or contravts with clients and the public, or is not clearly posted (like service restriction signs at restaurant or bar doors), then "notice" has not been made and it does not apply. Even if he communicated it to you, unless in writing and maybe even then only if you signed something with it on it, might still have no legal effect on you.


One obvious thing I did not address - have you talked to the neighbor about this ? They might offer to pay for it, or file a claim on the damage with the contractor as the customer.

Answered 7 months ago by LCD

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toched LCD - I didn't know how to comment under your post. First, the neighbor is in Florida. The only person who knows how to contact him is one of his neighbors who I had to go over to ask him to contact this neighbor. We are not on good terms due to problems I have had with him in the past, as has most of the neighborhood. I didn't know he had even contacted anyone.

I heard a noise on the side of my home at 8:30am three days after the event to see the tree guys climbing onto my garage roof. They never came to my door to let me know they were there or to ask my permission for anything. Since the neighbor's tree was beyond saving he called the service or he would have left it for me to take care of. I won't get any satisfaction from this neighbor either.

Thank you for your answer. I am getting an estimate for the gutter on Saturday. I don't know and wasn't told who the owner of the company has as an insurer, as he was adamant that he wasn't responsible. I am adding a photo to show that the branch never . One photo shows the intact gutter with the tree on the roof, one shows the branch end in the gutter (unfortunately there is also a black edging piece in the photo) and the damage. It

clearly was caused by their negligence.

Answered 7 months ago by Tiredofbeingtaken

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Votes

Ok - the photo helps a LOT - and it should have been no trouble whatsoever to secure the tree at the break (so it would not fall off prematurely) and then pivot that branch off the roof with zero damage, because it does not look like it hit hard enough to damage the roof.


Since they did not contact you ahead of time - that gives you some real clout, because they were trespassing by not contacting you for permission to do the work. I would get repair bids ASAP - firm bids for certain $ mount - you might find a roofer who will bid both parts (roof repair and gutter) in one bid for ease. And be sure the roofer checks out the attic too, for any sign of broken sheathing or rafters - not likely, but not having seen it I have no idea how hard the branch came down on the roof and how well the small branches cushioned it.


Then I would call the tree service and tell him you have a firm bid for the repair, and he has 2 choices - to bring by a check for that amount within 2 business days (calling in advance to arrange time when it is convenient for you), or you will be filing a criminal trespass and property damages report with the police and a complaint with the state licensing board and city/county business license officer. Photo any footprints and tire tracks if not melted yet. If it comes down to that, they should be willing to help get his insurance company info for you, though for what looks like minimal damage he would be smarter paying out of pocket than having a claim against his insurance which he would pay most of out of his deductible anyway, because it looks to me like almost certainly will be less than his probably about $2,500-10,000 deductible. Deductibles are usually high for tree service companies, which is probably why he blew you off - because he knew the repair would be coming out of his pocket.


Other thing you can do - if he is a licensed contractor (seem likely from the scope of work they take on - see website at www.randlcustomlandscape.com) you could also call the state contractor licensing board about whether he is legally licensed, bonded and insured - they would presumably give you his insurance company name and policy number.


And of course, after all is said and done, an appropriate but honest Review on Angies List and maybe Yelp or similar sites might be in order.

Answered 7 months ago by LCD




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