Which Neighbor Has to Pay for the Damage Caused by a Defective Tree

Question

While examining a house, my Buyer noticed the neighbor’s house has a tree that has a lot of branches hanging over into the house my Buyer wants to buy.  These branches appear to be in poor condition and my Buyer is concerned these branches may damage the property after he purchases it.

If my Buyer purchases this house, who is responsible if these branches damage his property?

Answer

This question highlights the importance of a Buyer and a Real Estate Agent examining the ENTIRE property and not just the house.

The general rule in Louisiana is found at Louisiana Civil Code Article 688 which states:

A landowner has the right to demand that the branches or roots of a neighbor’s trees, bushes, or plants, that extend over or into his property be trimmed at the expense of the neighbor.

A landowner does not have this right if the roots or branches do not interfere with the enjoyment of his property.

Based on the fact that the branches appear to be defective, it appears that “the branches interfere with the enjoyment” of the Seller’s property and the Seller can request the neighbor remove the defective branches at the neighbor’s cost.

If your Buyer is concerned about the branches, it might be wise to have the Seller of the property get this worked out with the neighbor prior to your Buyer purchasing the property.

If the neighbor won’t have the branches removed at his/her expense, then the Seller could offer to pay to have the branches removed.

If your Buyer decides to purchase the property despite the defective branches, then your Buyer runs the risk of dealing with this situation at his cost after the date of purchase.

Just as an FYI:  if the defective branches cause damage to the property after your Buyer purchases the property and if the neighbor won’t cover the repair costs, then your Buyer might have to file a lawsuit against his/her neighbor.  In order to place liability on the neighbor at Trial, according to Louisiana Civil Code Article 2317.1, your Buyer would have to establish the following:

  1. The tree and its branches are defective;
  2. The neighbor knew or should have known of the defective condition of the branches;
  3. The damage could have been prevented had the neighbor addressed the defective branches by having them trimmed; and
  4. The neighbor failed to address the defective branches.

 

Another reason to try to get this “defective branch issue” worked out prior to your Buyer purchasing the property.