Property owners warned of legal perils from falling trees

The heavy weather which has battered parts of the UK will bring a spate of compensation claims if land owners do not take care over falling trees.

That is the warning from a leading litigation lawyer, who is concerned that businesses and home owners are leaving themselves open to legal challenges if trees on their property fall in high winds.

Harjie Singh Bindra, partner at Midland law firm mfg Solicitors, has warned land owners and businesses must ensure they have taken all ‘reasonable’ steps to ensure people and property are safe, but that many are not aware of the legal pitfalls.

The alert comes as the Environment Agency clears up after some of worst flooding for years and homes and businesses in some parts of the UK continued to be buffeted by 100 mph winds. Insurance costs are expected to reach £1 billion.

“Parts of the county have been severely affected by flooding and uprooted trees in the recent stormy conditions.” said Mr Bindra, a nationally-recognised expert in property litigation.

It’s been exceptional weather and as the Prime Minister described it recently, almost ‘biblical’.

But whatever the best definition is there’s no doubt that the storms have left countless properties damaged by trees and fallen branches – with many business or private property owners unaware of their legal position, especially if neighbouring properties are affected.

So-called ‘acts of God’ are no-one’s fault but there’s some who are encountering huge problems as it becomes clear the tree in question was diseased, rotting or damaged.

In these cases the legislation across England in Wales is well-defined – if the owner in question knew, or should have known, there was a problem they must take reasonable steps to remove the tree from their property or make it safe.

“It’s a harsh fact and something which is causing considerable stress and financial worry at the moment for many commercial landlords and private households.”

Mr Bindra said that colleagues at his firm have been contacted by people for legal advice on the issue in recent weeks.

Spelling out the legislation further, he added that property owners, and in some cases those letting a property, are expected to ensure that trees will not impact upon a neighbour’s property, harm anyone passing by or cause injury to employees – a situation which can be helped by basic checks or professional work.

Mr Bindra added:

“Businesses and land owners need to ensure they are fully aware of what is expected of them when it comes to fallen trees. The bad weather we’ve had in recent weeks will not be around forever but the impact of a costly compensation claim could well spoil the rest of the year.”