What to consider with neighbor's tree removal?
September 14, 2016 11:45 AM   Subscribe

We are in Ohio. Our neighbor is in the vetting process of having a large tree removed, which apparently has a crack and is in danger of splitting. The tree is on their property but some branches hang over ours.

Two crane / tree removal companies today asked if they could use our property for their trucks during the removal. We don't know if allowing the removal companies onto our property makes us liable and we also don't want to be "bad" neighbors as we just moved in by not allowing.

1. Should we give them permission?
2. Do we need to contact our homeowner's insurance to let them know?
3. Any other considerations?
posted by glaucon to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Neighbors let the crane on their property when we had a tree removed. This was the difference between $6000 and $10,000 for us. (Truck in the neighbors' back driver versus getting a permit from the city to block the street so that a giant crane could be brought in to remove the tree from the front.)

Unless someone says that you are suddenly liable for something huge, you should do it. They are probably asking you because a crane/truck big enough to take the tree down won't fit onto your neighbors' property at the angle needed to get the tree down - that's what it was for us.

If you have the name of the company, look them up to make sure they're well-regarded.

Also, our big tree broke in a storm and lots of it fell onto the neighbors' yard, narrowly missing their house. Ours rotted from the inside and had passed an arborist's inspection. You are very lucky - your tree will be taken down before the next big storm.

If I were you, I'd jump at the chance to get this done and preserve goodwill with the neighbors. It was hell on a plate for us, and would have permanently soured relations if we'd had to go into debt $4000 for the removal because our neighbors wouldn't let the operator in the driveway.
posted by Frowner at 11:53 AM on September 14, 2016 [21 favorites]

I'd make sure I knew the insurance status of the tree removers, and the limits of their coverage. Good tree companies have amazing insurance with millions in coverage, and that coverage costs a lot of money. That's why my proverbial cousin Derek can offer a tree removal price 1/3 the price of a big outfit - he's not insured.

But if they are a legit company with legit insurance, I'd personally probably let them on my property, so long as they can assure me that they will fix any damage they may do to my plants (including, but not limited to: flower beds, lawn, shrubs). Unlike the hiring homeowner, you won't be able to withhold pay if you're not happy with how they leave your yard.

Without seeing pictures, disallowing access to your property could be everything from a minor inconvenience to the removers, or a major pain in the ass that adds considerable cost to the project (e.g. Frowner's experience).

It would certainly be neighborly and good for both of you if you contact your neighbor and chat about some of these issue, perhaps over coffee/cookies/beer/whatever.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:54 AM on September 14, 2016 [11 favorites]

I would second make sure they are on the hook to repair the yard/landscape damage and make things neat/nice again. I'm also assuming that if they have a crane, they are a legit company with the requisite insurance to handle any major incidents during the work (damage to your house/dwellings, damage to utilities etc and that they'd do the miss utility type check if needed etc).
posted by k5.user at 11:59 AM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I agree with the above posters. Especially about the coffee & cookies. Contact the tree removal company directly and ask what would be involved. Make sure they don't come in after a soggy rainstorm (discuss how they take care not to disturb the site) and you could be extra diligent and check in with your insurer. You might also just casually ask your neighbor how their home insurance treats this to fish for whether they've had a conversation with their insurer as well. They have a vested interest in using a good company that doesn't incur extra costs so just go in as though everyone has the best agenda: inexpensive, safe, effective and neighborly.
posted by amanda at 12:01 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Check the companies for licensing and bonded insurance, and then make sure to get IN WRITING that they will fix any damage they cause*. If they're going into the grass, you can probably expect track marks at the best and deep, deep gouges and tons of damage at the worst. I've never let my homeowner's insurance know about this kind of thing because the company doing the thing always had really amazing insurance that simply blew my personal coverage out of the water.

*and make sure that the definition of "damage" is one that you define.
posted by cooker girl at 12:02 PM on September 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

I should add that we discussed this with our neighbors extensively just to get onto their property - I'm surprised they haven't contacted you.

Also, our company was very used to this type of work, and what they wanted was not to trample the hydrangeas but to park a crane in the driveway so that the crane could be operated near the tree in question. There was no possibility of damage to anything on the neighbors' property. It's certainly worth checking, but a crane truck is large and gets parked on asphalt - it's not really designed to be driven right up to the tree with its treads sinking in the mud.
posted by Frowner at 12:04 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Tree guys put a crane in my neighbor's driveway to remove a large oak from our property. The only thing I would be concerned about would be damage to your lawn. They'll use trucks with outriggers, and put sheets of plywood down to distribute the load and prevent the trucks from sinking into your lawn. So if your lawn is swampy or it just rained buckets I'd be concerned, otherwise you'll be fine.
posted by fixedgear at 12:06 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also--make sure it's not just the lawn, but any pipes or utilities that might be running under it. My mom's experience with something similar ended up with the weight of the crane cracking an important pipe that ran perpendicular between the house and the street. They ended up having to dig up half the lawn and replace the pipe; I'm not sure who paid for it, but it was a long ordeal with lots of headaches.
posted by stellaluna at 12:09 PM on September 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

1) Yes, you should allow them on your property, but:

2) You should ask for the contractor's COI (certificate of insurance) for their general liability and worker's comp insurance info. They should be completely used to giving this out.

3) You should ask your neighbor to have them make sure that that they will pay for any damages incurred to your property as well.

This should be on the contract the neighbor signs with the contractor, not an arrangement made between you and the contractor. This is because, unlike your neighbor, you don't have any leverage / can't withhold payment if you do incur damages.
posted by suedehead at 12:13 PM on September 14, 2016 [6 favorites]

Ask whether the crane / tree removal companies took a good look at your property while they were inspecting your neighbors'. They probably did, but make sure of it, to avoid them damaging something that they didn't notice because they didn't look well enough from someone else's yard.
posted by Etrigan at 12:16 PM on September 14, 2016

I allowed a truck on my property to take the neighbor's tree down. They needed to place the truck on the lawn but had brought sheets of plywood to lay down and distribute the load. It was fine.
posted by readery at 12:24 PM on September 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

You could ask them to talk you through what they'd be doing on your side of the property line. Driving a lift truck onto the grass shouldn't be a big deal unless you've had a lot of recent rain; wet ground is much softer. Large pieces of tree that are lowered into your yard will have to be cut into smaller pieces (sawdust) and carried (heavy footprints) or dragged away. Pieces that are dropped without ropes can leave big dents or holes in the yard.

I have a wood stove and fix old chainsaws as a hobby, so I interact with tree service guys frequently. Professionalism and delicacy vary significantly.
posted by jon1270 at 12:41 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Two crane / tree removal companies today asked if they could use our property for their trucks during the removal.

If I were your neighbors, I would be annoyed that the companies were reaching out to you before I got a chance to talk to you, but it's possible that the companies were trying to get a handle on whether you'd be willing so they could factor that into their quotes.

I would talk to your neighbors (or write them a friendly note including your phone # if they aren't home) and tell them that you don't have a problem with it as long as the company/companies doing the work are appropriately licensed and bonded for your jurisdiction, and will accept liability, in writing, for any damage for your property.

This can give your neighbors a heads up that you might not be totally on board with their cousin Jimmy-with-the-rented-chainsaw going onto your property, but that you'll be reasonably willing to work with responsible professionals to get the job done in a cost-effective manner.

Your question reminded me that I need to get some quotes for treework on my property (which I will likely need to talk to my neighbor(s) about).
posted by sparklemotion at 12:42 PM on September 14, 2016

When we had a big tree removed, the truck's tires left deep indentations in our lawn. It was late spring and the ground was fairly soft, though not damp. I imagine the workers could lay sme plywood down to distribute the load; I wish I'd known to as about it.
posted by wryly at 12:50 PM on September 14, 2016

Positive relationships with both tree removal companies and neighbors are pretty valuable. I would let them assuming they had a website with their licensing, insurance info, etc on it.

The thing I'd keep an eye on is lines or pipes coming to your house -- some aren't designed to park a truck on them.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:58 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's way better to get this taken care of now, prior to the branches falling and either hurting someone or damaging someone's property.

Twice this summer we have allowed a tree service on our property to trim our neighbors' trees; in all cases the long-term benefit was to us because now we're not at risk of losing our garage and our cars, or being squashed by falling dead branches (and now our garden has more sun!). The second time we actually hired the service ourselves to trim some branches on neighbors' trees that we were concerned about. Obviously YMMV depending on where the limbs are overhanging, but it is a risk to take seriously.

Definitely, look the service up and make sure they are well-regarded and insured, etc. If they are going on your property I would think veto power over a company would be acceptable. For us, both times the tree crews laid down plywood and rubber mats to protect our yard, they cleaned up well, and nothing was damaged. The grass was flattened at the time, but it's fine now. The trucks they use are huge and they can likely park well away from any bushes, landscaping etc, you have. A good company should do a walk through with you just prior to coming on the yard to be alerted to anything you want them to watch out for.

It's really interesting to watch! If you can be around, or if you have small kids, it's better than TV. :)
posted by john_snow at 1:02 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Any other considerations?

if you have a septic tank make sure you and the removers and anyone who might be driving a heavy truck or dropping heavy branches knows exactly where it is beneath the lawn.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:02 PM on September 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Along the lines of poffin boffin, know where your sewer line exits your house and maybe how deep it's buried? (In my city, the sewer lines are old and brittle so if big equipment like this drove over that spot it could smash the line.)
posted by purple_bird at 2:13 PM on September 14, 2016

I'm surprised no one has mentioned that you should take photos of your yard *before* they come on to your property.
posted by rudd135 at 5:49 PM on September 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Echoing poffin boffin, when we had some big trees taken down in our yard the tree removal company sent over another company (at no upfront cost to us, I'm sure this was factored into the quote) to find out where our septic tank was, along with any other power / water lines. Since our neighbor was going to let the tree removal company use her driveway to get closer to the trees, the same company found her septic tank and power / water lines also. These were then all well marked so that when the tree removers started working they knew what was where underneath them.
posted by ralan at 7:27 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

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