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Whose responsibility is it to maintain trees?

in Compensation Law by Barrie Woollacott on

Victoria is commonly known as the Garden State and it’s easy to see why. There’s no shortage of magnificent public and private gardens and tree lined streets in our state.

But poor maintenance combined with bad weather can result in trees and branches falling, causing property damage, serious injury and even fatalities.

Local councils have a duty to ensure trees that are on council-owned land, including along footpaths and in parks, are safe.

Residents who are concerned about the safety of trees on public land should report their concerns to the responsible council. The council should arrange for an arborist to inspect the tree and carry out any maintenance work that is needed to make the tree safe.

If they fail to act, councils could face legal action if someone is hurt or dies, or the tree falls and damages a resident’s house, car or other property.

Private property owners are responsible for trees located on their property

If you believe that a tree on your property is unsafe or have received a complaint about the safety of a tree, you should arrange to have an arborist assess the tree’s health. If the tree is found to be diseased or unstable, you should have it lopped or removed. If you don’t, you could be liable for any injuries to neighbours, visitors or others.

You could also be liable for damage to your neighbour’s property, including their house, vehicles or pool. Your neighbour will be able to make an insurance claim, but if you are found liable their insurance company may be able to recoup their losses from your insurance company.

It’s important to ensure that arborists who come on to your property are properly qualified and have public liability insurance. If they don’t have insurance and are injured while working on your property, or someone else is hurt as a result of their work, you the property owner could be liable.  

If a tree in good condition falls or drops limbs as a result of bad weather it will likely be considered an act of god.

A property owner’s home insurance should cover any property damage that results from a tree falling or dropping limbs in such circumstances.

If you’ve been injured because someone else didn’t take the right amount of care, you may be able to make a public liability claim.

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