Sometimes it can be hard to determine who is responsible for taking care of overhanging limbs, storm-damaged trees or felled branches in your yard. It can further complicate things when the tree in question affects a neighbor’s yard as well.

Primary Tree Owner Responsibilities

Landowners have two main responsibilities regarding their trees. A tree is your responsibility (at least in part) if any part of it falls within your property line. Trees located on a property line are shared between property owners. This being said, homeowners and landowners have two primary responsibilities: 

  1. Perform Reasonable Inspections
  2. Ensure the Trees are Safe

Reasonable Tree Inspections

Professional tree inspections are the best way to ensure nobody gets hurt due to a tree safety incident and to make sure your trees are healthy; what constitutes a reasonable tree inspection when it comes to land ownership? 

Perhaps the most obvious reason to call for a tree inspection is due to visible damage following a storm, or a loose-hanging branch that appears to be at risk of breaking and falling. It is no secret that strong winds and lightning strikes can cause significant damage to a tree. Even if your tree seems to be fine after losing a branch or two during a storm, it is always a good idea to get the tree checked and inspected to be sure.

Ensuring a Tree is Safe

If a landowner is lucky enough to escape the event of a fallen branch or storm-damaged tree, it is also reasonable to schedule a tree inspection for roughly every two years. Even though a tree may appear healthy, only a professional arborist will be able to tell you with confidence whether or not the tree is at risk for disease, death, or damage.

Common Tree Owner Questions

Can I cut back branches that are hanging in my yard from my neighbor’s tree?

If a situation arises where a tree that grows on a landowner’s property has branches that extend to a neighbors property, that neighbor owns those branches and can remove or prune them back to the property line without the landowner’s permission. But in Iowa, if the neighbor does damage to the tree that causes death, then the neighbor could be held liable for up to 3 times the value of the tree. Mature trees can have a high value.

Do my neighbors have a say in what I do with my trees?

It depends! If a dangerous tree or branch is not removed by a landowner, a neighbor can request in writing to have the tree or branch removed. If the landowner fails to act, the neighbor can file a civil claim against the landowner to get them to remove the tree or branch. 

Will insurance cover tree service?

Insurance typically only covers property damage. They rarely cover tree removals before they fall, only after the fall and damage arises as a result from the fall. 

If my tree is near a road, what am I responsible for? 

Property owners also have a responsibility to prune trees that reduce a driver’s view in public right of ways.

Am I in charge of keeping my trees away from power lines?

Absolutely not. It is not safe or advisable for a land owner to trim any trees near or around power lines. Instead, you should contact your local utility company to come inspect the tree if its branches are touching the power line. They will take care of the problem.

Report a Damaged Tree in Des Moines

Many trees in the Des Moines Metro area are owned by the local municipalities. Contact them if you observe a dead or diseased tree on their property. They usually respond fast. If they determine that the tree poses a threat to people or property they will remove it. 

Des Moines Residential Tree Service

The Tree Doctor is happy to have served homeowners and property owners in the Des Moines area for many years. Contact The Tree Doctor at 515.333.TREE for local tree removal, tree trimming, pruning, inspection, and more.