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Falling Trees On A Property In Queensland: Who Is Liable for Damages?

Jul 25, 2023

One of the (many) perks of living in sunny Queensland is being surrounded by the beautiful, lush environment of magnificent trees in public and private spaces. However, enjoying this lush environment on your property comes with responsibility. Occasionally, you may have to deal with the occurrence of falling trees. A question many property owners ask when this happens is, “Who is liable?” Let’s look at different scenarios and provide information on who is responsible if a tree falls on a property in Queensland.

The Consequences When a Tree Falls

The impact of a falling tree can be significant and wide-ranging. It poses a potential threat to the safety of individuals, their property, and surrounding structures. A fallen tree can cause severe damage to homes, vehicles, and infrastructure, leading to financial losses and disruption in daily life.

Additionally, it can disrupt power lines, block roadways, and even impact the ecosystem by altering the natural habitat. A fallen tree requires prompt action, and preventive measures are crucial in mitigating the potential consequences of a falling tree.

Who is Responsible if a Tree Falls on a Property in Queensland?

The Neighbourhood Disputes (Dividing Fences and Trees) Act 2011 of Queensland outlines the responsibilities when it comes to trees. If a tree falls, the first thing to check is who owns it. Generally, the tree keeper (or tree owner) is responsible for caring, maintaining and looking after any damage caused if the tree falls.

What is the Definition of a Tree Keeper?

A tree keeper is the registered land owner on which the tree is growing. It can be an individual, an organisation, body corporate or the council (for trees sitting on public lands). Note: The state is not considered a tree-keeper for certain types of lands, such as a national park. The tree keepers in this scenario are those with specific interests in that land, such as those holding occupation permits, stock grazing permits, or permits under a stock grazing permit.

For context, we will discuss whose homeowners insurance will cover any damages caused by a falling tree (or if they can actually cover it.) Here are some common situations:

A Tree on a Private Property Falls

Tree keepers are responsible for removing trees on their premises, with homeowners insurance typically covering expenses related to cleanup and damage caused to property and structures like sheds or fences.

Insurance policies usually do not extend coverage to fallen trees due to negligence in maintenance or improper removal attempts by untrained individuals. Depending on the specifics of your policy, you may still be responsible for some of the costs.

A Tree on Public Property Falls on Your Property

If a tree from public land falls onto your property and results in damage, the responsibility for cleanup and removal costs falls on the council, while your homeowners insurance would cover the expenses incurred from damage to your property, fences, sheds, and other structures.

Act of God:

If a storm or unforeseen circumstances cause a healthy tree to fall, it is typically considered an ‘Act of God’ – this means it can absolve any liability of the tree keeper. For example, if a tree on your neighbour’s property falls on your property due to an ‘Act of God’, then your homeowners insurance may cover it. The specific wording of your insurance policy is crucial in determining responsibility, but in general, homeowners insurance often provides coverage for such incidents.

In any situation where you would need insurance to cover damages, it is crucial to review the terms and conditions of your policy to understand any limitations or exclusions that may apply.

Determining Who is Responsible if a Tree Falls on a Property in Queensland Requires the Assistance of a Professional Arborist

When determining who is responsible when a tree falls on a Queensland property, it’s best to consult a professional arborist. Their expertise will provide valuable insights into the tree’s condition, prior maintenance, and potential hazards, leading to a more accurate determination of liability. Seeking the guidance of a professional arborist means property owners can ensure a fair and informed resolution in cases of fallen trees and help mitigate potential disputes.

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