Triple 'R' Tree Service

& Landscaping

California Contractors License: 663545 

“Uniquely qualified to provide examples of proper tree care based on tree biology.”


 

CA Tree Law

1.0 Licensing. C-61/D-49 Tree Service

State law requires anyone who contracts to do construction work to be licensed by the Contractors' State License Board in the license category in which the contractor is going to be working--If the total price of the job is $500 or more (including labor and materials). Licensed contractors are regulated by laws designed to protect the public. If you contract with someone who does not have a license, the Contractors' State License Board may be unable to assist you with your complaint. Your only remedy against an unlicensed contractor may be in civil court, and you may be liable for damages arising out of any injuries to the unlicensed contractor or his or her employees.

2.0 California Civil Code 833

Trees whose trunks stand wholly upon the land of one owner belong exclusively to him, although their roots and/or branches grow into the land of another.

3.0 California Civil Code 834

Trees whose trunks stand partly on the land of two or more coterminous owners, belong to them in common.

4.0 Landowners Responsibility

Landowners have a duty to inspect their trees to determine if a tree is healthy or hazardous, and remove branches or an entire tree if it poses a hazard. If they fail to remove branches or the tree itself, and it falls and injures someone or damages property, they will be liable, and might even be personally liable, beyond the protections of their insurance policy, if they should have known to remove the dangerous part of the tree.

5.0 Common Assumption

A common assumption is that homeowners have an absolute right to cut offending branches or roots that encroach onto their property.

New California Tree Law

by: Randall S. Stamen

Many people are not aware that in 1994, California tree law changed drastically. A California Court ruled that a neighbor no longer has the absolute right to cut encroaching roots and branches back to stubs ending at his or her property line. The health of a tree must be taken into account.

The Court made its finding in a case entitled BOOSKA v. PATEL. A man named Booska owned a 30 to 40 year old Monterey pine. The roots of the tree grew into property owned by a man named Patel. There is a question as to whether the Monterey pine's roots were damaging Patel's walkways. Patel hired a contractor to dig a 3 foot deep trench between his yard and Booska's property to sever the roots of the Monterey pine.

After the trenching Booska filed a lawsuit against Patel for injuries to the tree and for the creation of a nuisance. (Apparently, the only reason that the contractor who severed the Monterey pine's roots was not sued was that he went bankrupt.) Booska alleged that because the Monterey pine's roots were severed the tree was unsafe and unhealthy. Booska's allegations were supported by the testimony of an arborist. Patel defended his actions by arguing that a landowner has the right to prune encroaching roots and branches back to his or her property line anyway he or she desires. Patel cited several California cases to support his position. The cases he cited are cases which California attorneys have depended on for years. The Court analyzed Patel's argument and the cases he cited and concluded, "whatever rights Patel has in the management of his own land, those rights are tempered by his duty to act reasonably."

Booska v. Patel is significant in that it generated new California case law which requires neighbors to act reasonably when pruning encroaching roots and branches. A neighbor no longer has the absolute right to cut encroaching roots and branches back to stubs ending at his or her property line. The health of the tree must be taken into account.

Responsible neighbors and green industry professionals who wish to stay out of costly litigation should keep Booska v. Patel in mind when pruning encroaching roots and branches.

6.0 Rights and Liabilities

When Trees Topple: Rights and Liabilities

San Francisco Chronicle, December 20, 1995

By Barri Kaplan Bonapart; Bonopart & Associates

What has been the No. 1 cause of death, injury and property damage from this year's bad storms? Car accidents? Floods? Electrocution? No. The answer is found right in our back yards. It's falling trees.

On December 12, two Northern California women were killed while sleeping when trees crashed through their roofs, and a man died when a tree hit his car. On the same day, dozens of others were injured and scores of houses and cars were smashed by falling trees.

Is there anything that you can do before the next storm to protect you and your neighbors? And what can you do if you are injured or your property is damaged by a neighbor's tree?

First, identify the problem. Certain trees, because of their shallow root structure and top-heavy growth, are more likely to be hazardous. These include certain types of eucalyptus, Monterey pine, acacia, Monterey cypress, Douglas fir and bay. Even more stable varieties of trees can become hazardous due to improper pruning. Topping a tree (cutting the top off, usually for increased light or view) can create a structurally unsound tree. Lollipopping (cutting the lower branches and leaving a tuft of growth at the top) and lion-tailing (trimming the inner branches to leave growth on the ends) can also increase the risk.

If you think a tree on your or your neighbor's property poses a threat, have a certified arborist or urban forester inspect the tree.

If an expert confirms that a tree on your property poses a hazard, you should trim it or cut it down. If the tree belongs to a neighbor, there are several ways to approach the problem.

  • Talk first. Do not assume that your neighbor is aware of the dangerous condition. Talk to your neighbor and explain the situation. Once informed, the neighbor may be willing to pay for some or all of the expense involved of eliminating the hazard.

  • Put it in writing. If the neighbor is not willing to take corrective action, write a letter explaining your concern and enclose a copy of the arborist's report. That way the neighbor is on notice that he or she will be held responsible if you or your property is harmed.

  • Get help. Next, notify your local government. Many cities will step in to correct or make the owner correct dangerous conditions. Some cities will remove the hazard and bill the owner if the owner refuses to take responsibility.

  • Do it yourself? Legally you can cut off offending limbs up to the property line as long as you do not cut down or destroy the tree.

However taking matters into your own hands is risky. If you cut branches that are on the neighbor's property or cut in such a way that mortally wounds the tree, you could be sued or arrested for trespass. You could also be subject to liability for tens of thousands of dollars for wrongfully cutting the tree.

  • To sue or not to sue. You can bring a lawsuit to have the tree declared a private nuisance. A court can direct a tree owner to correct the problem.

If you are only asking for compensation for loss of use and enjoyment (for example, because you can no longer go into the back yard for fear of injury), you can sue in small claims court without a lawyer for up to $5,000. If you want the tree trimmed or removed you will have to file in Superior Court. Although you can represent yourself, it is not a user-friendly process to most lay people. A lawyer experienced in tree and neighbor law can be an asset.

Going to court should be a measure of last resort because it can be expensive and time consuming and can create long-lasting animosity between neighbors.

What can you do if your neighbor's tree has already come crashing down onto your property?

  • Insurance. Notify your homeowners' insurance carrier. Most policies provide coverage for damage caused from falling trees. If you are the tree owner, your policy may also cover damage to your neighbors, even if the damage was caused by your carelessness. If you do not feel you have been adequately compensated for your loss, do not sign a release or any document in which you give up your right to bring legal action.

  • Litigation. If you believe you have not fully been compensated from insurance proceeds you may want to pursue a lawsuit. You are entitled to compensation for the cost to repair and clean up the property. Get written estimates for all of the work required. If, for some reason, the property cannot be repaired, you are entitled to collect the difference in your property value before and after the damage, as determined by a real estate appraiser.

If you or family members suffer injuries from a neighbor's tree, you are entitled to be reimbursed for medical bills (even those already covered by insurance) and lost wages. In some cases, you may be entitled to compensation for emotional distress. If you can demonstrate that the neighbor showed a conscious disregard for your rights or safety, you may be entitled to punitive damages. For example, if you pointed out the dangerous condition, and the neighbor refused to act, the court can award additional damages aimed at punishing your neighbor for his or her failure to take corrective action.

You may prevail in court if you can show: 1) the tree that caused damage belongs to your neighbor, 2) your neighbor knew or should have known of the hazard and did nothing to prevent it, and 3) the tree damaged your property or injured you. You also have to show the value of the damage or injury.

Although it may cost several hundred dollars to stabilize or remove a hazardous tree, it may well be worth it to avoid the potential problems.

 

 

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Randy & Sharon Props ~ Owners

Richard L. Hoover ~ Certified Arborist WE1443A

1312 Ascot Ave ~ Rio Linda, CA 95673

(916) 991-7317 ~ (916) 991-4300 FAX

Tree Services@Triple R Tree.com