Spring and summer in Ohio often means heavy rains and thunderstorms that cause trees and large branches to fall, sometimes causing damage to property. As a result, many community association board members inquire as to who is responsible for falling branches and trees. The basic Ohio rule is that when a branch or tree falls, where it lands, not where it came from, determines who is responsible for the cleanup of the tree and any damage the fallen tree or branch may cause. There are, however, limited exceptions to the basic Ohio rule.
The typical scenario is an owner wakes up the morning after a heavy Ohio windstorm to find a tree or branch from a neighbor’s home has fallen and caused damage to the community association’s common elements. Even though the tree or branch did not originate on the community association’s property and is owned by the neighboring home owner, the cost to repair the damage is still the responsibility of the community association. The only time the liability for the tree damage or the cost of cleanup switches to the owner of the tree, is if the tree was dead or partially dead and should have been cut down before it fell. If the neighboring home owner knew or had reason to know that the tree was diseased or damaged, the neighboring home owner has the responsibility to cut down the tree before any damage could occur to the community association and is responsible for the liability and cost of damage and cleanup.
Ohio property owners are generally responsible for the reasonable inspection and maintenance of all trees located on their property. For community associations, this applies to any tree located on the common elements. Kaman & Cusimano recommends that the association’s board and/or manager conduct annual tree inspections. This spring when the board is conducting its annual walk through of the property, take great care to inspect all trees in the common elements and on the edge of any woodlands. And if a tree is diseased or damaged, the board should take steps to immediately hire a contractor to remove the tree.