Example "Dangerous Trees" Certified Letter - Need Answer Fast!

I have a neighbor that has a lot of trees that are dead. I’ve told them several times over the past 3-4 years about them, but they’ve done nothing about them. :mad:

Over the recent snowstorm, one of them fell and is being held in place by a branch from another tree. We are scheduled to have possible winter weather again this weekend.

According to the law here, my homeowner’s insurance would be responsible unless I send a certified letter to them before any damage occurs. At that point, it would be their homeowner’s insurance responsibility.

I’ve tried searching google for “dangerous trees certified letter” as well as signed up for RocketLawyer and searched there as well, but I can’t seem to find an example letter.

Can anyone point me to an example that I can use? I don’t want to come across harsh (even though I’d LOVE to). :mad:


I don’t think it’s rocket science. Just tell them that you’re notifying them about some trees which you believe could impact your property. I mean, it’s coming certified mail; it’s kind of hard to make it seem like a casual friendly note at that point, right? Just keep it bare bones, literally three or four sentences, but maybe add a line saying “Please call me at XXX if you want to discuss this.”

I’d say the only important thing is to try and identify the trees as accurately as possible, so they can’t say (“Oh, you meant that tree. I fixed this other tree…”). If possible, I’d include pictures that have enough context that they can easily identify which tree(s) you’re talking about and where they are located.

Obviously, make a copy of the letter and pictures before you send it, and keep it filed securely. And if anyone does call you, immediately write down the conversation and file those notes, too.

Many attorneys will write such a letter for you at a relatively nominal cost. It also has a bit more impact coming from a lawyer’s office.

Ask your homeowner’s insurance provider for a copy of letter to send.

Ok, thanks all. I’ve contacted my insurance company and they are suggesting the same as the ideas here.

Legal advice is best suited to IMHO.

General Questions Moderator

Sorry about that. Since I was just looking for an example, I thought GD was the place.

I’ll add something to this since I had a similar situation. They (and their insurance company) are not liable to pay for damages that are NOT deemed ‘acts of god’ or were unforseen. They are not ‘negligent’ or responsible if a tornado picks up their tree and hurls it into your house. However, as had been suggested a certified letter warning them will go a long way to demonstrate negligence on their part.

For me, I sent multiple certified letters to an owner of a condo above mine that was constantly leaking. I peppered the word ‘negligence’ in the letters often letting them know they weren’t keeping their property in proper working order. I also sent copies to my insurance company and theirs (and I think even their lawyer). Haven’t had a leak problem since.

Were they willing to send you (sample?) letters as Ranger Jeff suggested?

That’s exactly what I would do. I would also email or snail mail pictures to your insurance agent to show how the trees are before the coming storms.

The problem is, if the tree falls during a storm, they may find a way to call it an ‘act of god’, but if you have proof that it fell a few weeks ago and they’ve had plenty of time to go out and deal with it, then it’s on them.

I don’t know what kind of terms you’re on with the neighbor, the first step could be just walking over and talking to them, but if you ask your agent to send them a letter, you could then walk over and talk to them and start off with “Hey, just a heads up, I noticed those trees and talked to my insurance company to see if they’d cover it if one of them hit my house and they said ‘no’ since it came from your property. They’re going to send you a letter asking you to remove them. Sorry, woud’ve just left it alone if I knew they were going to contact you about it, but once I mentioned it they said they had to move forward with it”.
A little passive aggressive, but it makes the insurance guy look like the jerk and lets them know that they’re on the hook for damage to your house.

FTR, even if you do just go and talk to them, even if you just do nothing, I would still take some pictures. Again, this will help prove that they didn’t fall in ‘this’ storm, but had actually fallen a while back.

PS, tread carefully. Being on bad terms with your neighbors gets really ugly really quickly.

Actually, I take back a bit of what I said. I was thinking that mainly you were trying to just legally cover yourself insurance-wise. In which case, just saying the minimum is almost certainly the best policy: don’t say anything about liability or negligence or anything, because you could say something incorrect, which has the potential of biting you in the butt later on if things do end up in court.

On the other hand, if you’re trying to get the other landowner to actually do something about the situation, then you want to have lots of scary words in the letter, and ominous-sounding phrases like “potentially fully liable for damages”. In which case, I would advise getting a lawyer to do it, because the last thing you want to do is use one of those scary words incorrectly. Plus, letters from lawyers are always scarier.

Anyway, from what you’ve described of your situation, my advice is still to get a letter out ASAP, with the bare minimum, so you’re covered for insurance. You can then decide, possibly after seeing how the other owner responds to the short letter, if you want to ramp things up with ominous legal communications, or maybe just a follow-up phone call after they get the short letter.

Agree. Years ago my car was struck by a limo. Minor damage but the driver and the owner insisted it was my fault. He was making a right turn from the left hand lane :eek: and his right front fender hit my left rear fender. I ask a lawyer to send letters to both the owner and driver. They quickly agreed to pay for my repairs.

However, when my lawyer contacted the DuPage court to register/notify (or whatever the legal term is) having sent the letters, the judge informed him that such letters were ONLY to be sent thru the DuPage court and the previous letters didn’t count. My lawyer asked for another $35(?) to properly/officially send the letters thru the court. Since the limo owner and had already agreed to pay for the damage, I never followed up.

If this tree damage issue ever ends up in court, it might help your case if you’ve dotted all the "t"s and crossed all the "i"s before hand. :wink:

Does this mean that if you send the letter your insurance policy will no longer cover the damage from your neighbor’s falling trees? Are you sure you want that? What if your neighbor lets their insurance lapse and doesn’t have the money to pay you?

As I specified, I’ve already talked with them several times over the past 3-4 years and they’ve done nothing about it, so talking with them at this point is not going to work (even though I HAVE tried to contact them 2 times since it fell, but they don’t answer their door).

I’ve drafted a letter that the insurance company thinks is good along with pictures with arrows pointing to each potential tree. Here is a copy of the text:

Mr. and Mrs. __________
I’m your backdoor neighbor. As I’ve informed you in the past, there are several dead trees on the back of your lot behind your barn. During the past snow, one of those trees that had been leaning quite badly has fallen and is now just being held up by a branch from another tree. There is also one live tree that is leaning toward my property.
If this tree falls, it will damage my fence and my son’s swing set. There are also several other obviously dead trees that I think are in danger of falling in the near future.
I’ve included a few photos with arrows indicating the dead trees that I think need to be removed to prevent property damage now and in the future. These photos are shot from the back corner of my house as well as one from the front corner. I’ve indicated your barn for reference.
I’m not only concerned about possible property damage, but also injury to our families. I do notice your children playing in this wooded area.

I hope that you can address this issue as soon as possible.

I think it’s not too rude, what do you guys think?

I’m not going to comment on the specifics of the letter, but I’ll mention that I think you should CC your insurance agent (I assume you have a local insurance agent), and be sure to include the pictures.

You might even send him two copies, one First Class, one certified. A first class one that he can open and a certified one to leave closed and file away. This one can be opened in the courtroom if it ever comes down to it. This proves when the tree started leaning, so if it does fall someday no one can claim it was an act of god.

Make sure to get a return receipt.

Also, remember, if they don’t accept the letter or even decline it, that’s just as good as signing for it. In almost all cases like this you just have to prove that you attempted to mail it. Keep the declined (or unsigned for letter) in your records.

The insurance company is getting a copy. In fact, I’m having them review it before I even send it. They’re going to save it in my file.

Just to be clear, sending them a copy, with the pictures, that they’ll keep in the sealed envelope with the postmark will help to prove when the pictures were taken. If the tree does fall on your house, say, next winter on a windy day, you want to be able to show that the tree has been leaning since February 25th, 2014. Your lawyer can open the letter in the courtroom to prove that. Otherwise his lawyer can attempt to claim that the tree fell the day before and he hadn’t even noticed it yet. Or, at the very least, hadn’t had any time to deal with it yet even though he ‘made a reasonable attempt’, whatever that may be.

Make sense.

To take it even further. You might send in a few more pictures every few months for your insurance agent to toss in his file.
I tried to get my parents to do this same thing when their neighbors had two trees strapped together because one was leaning. They ignored me. The tree still hasn’t fallen, but the neighbor took the strap off the tree. Now they can’t take the picture that proves the neighbor knows there’s a problem. As I recall, their insurance agent (a friend of the family). Gave them basically the same advice your’s gave you. Take some pictures and send a letter asking them to deal with it and then it’s their problem, otherwise it’s yours.

I don’t want to belittle your potential problems…but when I opened this thread, I assumed these trees were endangering your roof , or your car.You know…big bucks worth of damage.

If the only problem is with your fence and a kid’s swings…maybe JoeyP’s advice is relevant, too.
You can repair your own fence, and it may be worth it…'cause , ya know…“good fences make good neighbors”.*

*yes, I know Robert Frost didn’t intend to be taken literally. But with certain neighbors, well…It’s better not to be too poetic. :slight_smile:

That may be going a bit farther than is really necessary.

The certified letter will show that Orionizer sent the neighbor something this week. And, short of Orionizer being there to videotape the neighbor opening the letter, there’s no real way to prove what was really in the certified mail envelope.

So what does sending a sealed copy to the agent do? I guess it refutes the neighbor arguing “The trees were fine when Orionizer sent me that certified letter, which was blank (and I didn’t bother following up as to why someone sent me a blank envelope). Then, when the trees did get dangerous, Orionizer took photos, made a fake back-dated letter to me and put a copy in his files and in the insurance agent’s files, AND convinced the insurance agent to lie in court about when they got the copy. Then Orionizer didn’t tell me about the now-dangerous trees, waited for them to fall, and then sued me for the damages that would have been prevented had Orionizer simply told me about the trees when they did become dangerous (because I certainly would have done something about them!)”

But, IMHO, that argument could be much more easily refuted in court simply by looking at the judge with an incredulous raised eyebrow.

I’m also concerned with it falling on my dog or my son!