New Bill Could Change Who’s Responsible for Tree Damage in Connecticut (2023)

Who’s responsible for tree removal when a neighbor’s tree falls on private property in Connecticut? Currently, removing the fallen tree is the responsibility of whoever owns the property where the tree lands – meaning if a neighbor’s tree falls on your property, you cover the full cost of tree removal.

However, if the proposed bill SB 1061 is passed, the responsibility for removal of a fallen tree will shift to the owner of the tree – a prospect that’s dividing Connecticut lawmakers.

Here’s what Connecticut residents need to know about Connecticut Bill SB 1061.

The Current Status of Connecticut Bill SB 1061 – As of June 2023, Bill SB 1061 has been passed by Connecticut’s judiciary committee. However, the bill was not voted on before the legislative session ended on June 7, 2023, and so remains in limbo. Connecticut legislature is considered “part-time,” so the earliest SB 1061 can be considered is in February 2024, when the new state legislative session begins. We’ll update you as soon as there is new information!

What are the Laws for Removing Fallen Trees in Connecticut?

You may think Connecticut law regarding responsibility for fallen trees on private property is clearly established. This isn’t the case, however.

A recent report by chief attorney James Orlando of Connecticut’s Office of Legislative Research specifies that responsibility for the removal of fallen trees is a matter of case law, not statute.

This means that Connecticut laws or ordinances don’t directly tell you who is responsible for tree removal, but rather, it’s the result of over 300 years of legal precedent.

Currently, it’s the common opinion of Connecticut courts that fallen trees are “acts of God” unless they’re caused by something that was deliberately done to them. So, if your neighbor’s tree falls on your property through no specific action on your neighbor’s part, it’s not their fault and they’re not liable for any damage the tree may cause. You and your insurance company are responsible for the cleanup and removal of the tree in these instances.

Several lawsuits have been filed in Connecticut civil court requesting that tree owners bear responsibility for damage done by their trees. Plaintiffs cited negligence and inaction on the tree owner’s part as reasons why the owner should cover the costs of a tree that falls on neighboring property. However, none of these suits were successful; if a neighbor’s tree falls on your property, you’re still responsible for the cleanup and associated fees.

A fallen tree leans over a wooden fence from one back yard into another near a gray shed with a moss-covered roof and brown brick house on a partly cloudy day.

How Bill SB 1061 Would Change Tree Removal Liability

SB 1061 proposes shifting the responsibility of fallen tree removal to the tree owner rather than the affected property owner.

A similar bill passed in Connecticut in 2014 but was vetoed by then-governor Dannel Malloy, who asserted that the law could lead to healthy trees being cut down by residents seeking to avoid potential liability.

As currently written, Bill SB 1061 would hold the tree’s owner responsible for the cost of removing the tree if three conditions are met:

  1. A Connecticut licensed arborist inspects the tree and documents that the tree is likely to fall within five years due to disease, damage, or decay.
  2. The adjoining property owner notifies the tree owner by certified mail about the inspection and requests that the tree be removed, pruned, or treated.
  3. The property owner fails to act within 90 days of receiving notice.

The tree owner would not be held liable if a certified arborist deemed the tree healthy or if the tree fell due to an “act of God,” such as an accident, fire, or lightning strike.

The bill does not require the homeowner’s permission for an arborist to enter their property to assess a tree for signs of damage, disease, or decay on behalf of an adjoining property owner.

If SB 1061 is signed into law, insurance companies will be able to deduct the cost of removal from a damage claim since the homeowner filing the claim won’t be financially responsible for the removal.

A Rayzor’s Edge tree removal professional sits perched above a white and black truck, and uses the large grapple arm to hold a large tree trunk steady as technicians with chainsaws buck the tree into multiple twelve-foot sections on a cloudy day.

Differing Opinions on Connecticut Bill SB 1061

Those in Favor

Those in the Connecticut state senate who favor SB 1061 say the bill protects Connecticut residents from negligent neighbors by making that neighbor pay for the expense of removing a fallen.

Typically, in Connecticut, homeowner’s insurance only covers a fallen tree removal if the fallen tree damages a covered structure or blocks a driveway on the premises. Even then, the removal may only be partially covered.

Proponents of the bill also add that the new law would free homeowners to cancel unnecessary insurance coverage that they currently need to be “made whole” should a tree fall on their property.

Those Against

Those opposed to SB 1061 say the bill upends hundreds of years of legal precedent and is nothing more than a favor to insurance companies, allowing them to deduct tree removal costs from claim payments to save money.

Additionally, opponents of the bill claim that SB 1061 would allow residents to pressure their tree-owning neighbors to remove trees for reasons unrelated to safety, such as gaining a better view or to lessen maintenance from falling leaves. It could also be used to harass and annoy them with unwarranted arborist inspections of their property.

Are Your Trees a Potential Hazard?

If you have a dead, damaged, or diseased tree and are unsure about its safety, be a good neighbor and call Rayzor’s Edge Tree Service at 203-450-6043 for a tree assessment.

We are one of only a handful of Connecticut tree service companies accredited by the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) and have Connecticut Licensed Arborists on staff to provide a thorough tree inspection. Depending on the findings, we may recommend pest or disease treatments, tree maintenance services such as pruning or cabling, or tree removal. We look forward to hearing from you!

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