I originally blogged about tree law back in 2010, but will provide you with a refresher in the face of Hurricane Sandy. Here is the law on trees in NY:
- If a property owner has no knowledge that a tree is decaying or unsafe and it simply falls from wind or storm onto his neighbors’ property, he has no liability & the neighbor where it fell is responsible for removal for the portion on his property.
- If a property owner knows of a tree's dangerous condition; that the tree is unsound and/or decaying, regardless if wind contributes to its fall onto his neighbors' property, he is liable.
The issue is if the tree was sound before it fell.
- If so, removal is charged to the property owner in which it lies after it falls.
- If not, removal & liability for damage is charged to the property owner from which it fell.
To be clear, there is no duty to inspect your trees to determine if they are sound, instead only where there are indicia of decay or disease does such a burden fall upon a homeowner. The standard is if a defect in the tree is "readily observable" to an ordinary landowner upon reasonable inspection.
However, if your tree falls on a highway, the law is as follows: (see Highway Law 325)
If any tree shall fall, or be fallen by any person from any inclosed land into any highway, any person may give notice to the occupant of the land from which the tree shall have fallen, to remove the same within two days; if such tree shall not be removed within that time, but shall continue in the highway, the occupant of the land shall forfeit the sum of fifty cents for every day thereafter, until the tree shall be removed.