A neighbor’s tree damages your property — Who’s responsible?

It unfortunately has become a familiar sight in the last week -- downed trees in yards and streets all across our area. But what do you do when your neighbor's tree damages your property?
It unfortunately has become a familiar sight in the last week -- downed trees in yards and streets all across our area. But what do you do when your neighbor's tree damages your property?

PAMPLICO, SC (WBTW) – It unfortunately has become a familiar sight in the last week — downed trees in yards and streets all across our area. But what do you do when your neighbor’s tree damages your property?

Sheila McMann said she was terrified when a tree just over the property line she shares with her neighbor in Pamplico started to fall during Hurricane Matthew.

“If those branches of this old tree get wet, snaps more or breaks, I could be dead,” McMann said.

She said she heard a snap and her dogs start barking before she realized she was in danger.

“I went to open up the back to let them out and that’s when I saw the tree right there five rows down my siding and coming toward my house,” McMann recalled.

She did what anyone would do: called her neighbor to tell him about the tree, not sure what to do about it as the storm continued.

“I told him what had happened and that I was very scared and he told me to get out of the bedroom cause that’s gonna land right on my bedroom, right on my head,” said McMann.

McMann’s neighbor–who has been out of town since before the storm–told her he would get around to fixing the tree. She’s worried though that it won’t happen quickly enough and isn’t sure who can get it off her property and move back into her bedroom.

Reynolds Williams, a Florence attorney, explained a general rule for complicated situations like McMann’s.

“The first step is always to ask the neighbor to make a claim against the homeowner’s insurance policy,” Williams explained. “You can’t do any harm whatsoever by contacting both insurances.”

Williams said usually a tree falling on a home is considered an act of God, something many homeowner’s insurance policies would still cover. That is, unless the tree was at risk of falling before the storm.

“If they had noticed that the tree was likely to fall and they should have done something about it and didn’t cut it down then that’s a different thing,” said Williams.

For now though, McMann waits for some sort of assistance — hoping the tree doesn’t get any closer to her home.