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Dangerous Trees and Our Obligations

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  • Dangerous Trees and Our Obligations

    My brother and I are co-directors of a family company inherited from my Grandad and Dad.
    Originally the company was going to be dissolved when Dad retired but due to whole load of reasons me and my 3 siblings are now 25% shareholders and we are running the company until 2035 when the company will be dissolved.
    When my grandad ran the company there were serval large property developments of residential sites - this land has virtually all been sold off to new owners however we retain 6 small useless parcels of land leftover when the sites were sold off, mostly verges, random squares of carparks, things like that. We have public liability insurance on these parcels of land, which have never been claimed on and costs <400 per year, so I assume the insurers consider this low risk property.

    The contentious land parcel is a short dead-end road with 6 large detached houses on it - lets call it Wood Lane - and a thin strip of bordering scrub land, approx 3m wide. We do not own the houses or their property, just the road and the strip of scrubland. On the other side of the scrub strip is a block of flats with a residents association (RA) and a a management firm. My company was notified with a very rude and angry letter in late summer this year (2023) about a potentially dangerous tree on this scrub land which if it were to fall it could cause damage to block's garages. The RA were angry and rude as they believed that we had been ignoring them, but in fact they had never contacted us - this was a mess up on their management firm's end. Our address is easily findable on Company's House, so I'm not sure why they struggled with this. After some back and forth (they didn't provide any contact info and the letters I sent to them were returned as undeliverable), I contacted some tree surgery firms and got some quotes together, which were all expensive, as a large tree had died and needed to be fully extracted.

    After several months of chasing for quotes, on-site visits by surveyors and surgeons we finally got a date booked in for mid-December. I informed the RA of the confirmed works and the needed access that would be required - none of this surprising to me, and I thought obvious from the previous site's visit which were all done via accessing the block's car park. Their only stipulation preceding this had been that nothing was stored overnight and all materials were removed at the end of works, which the tree care company agreed to. Suddenly, the RA has come back and said they do not consent for any machinery or vehicles to access their land and they essentially do not consent for the works to be carried out at all - they would like the tree removed only with hand tools and only from the roadside. Wood Lane itself was already due to be closed for 2 days due to these works, and the RA had suggested that other residents of Wood Lane would be welcome to use their car park during the day when the road is closed.

    The tree care company have said they will need to draw up a new work plan, with a much greater timeline (incurring far greater costs) and that the works will most likely be delayed - they have also offered to do an on-site meeting with the RA, but the RA have gone hard-ball. and do not want to co-operate. I have requested the new quote, and thought of suggesting that my company pays the original quoted fee and the RA/management firm pay the difference, however when I floated this suggestion to the management firm they said absolutely not, there's no way they would incur any costs - the dangerous tree is my company's responsibility and the block of flats do not need to consent to allow us access to their property as it is private land and their choice.

    I feel my company has put months of work into appeasing these rude and demanding people, solely for their benefit (the tree poses no danger to anyone else) and I'm tempted to walk away. Our company could barely afford the originally quoted works, and any increase will leave us in dire straights. I am wondering if our public liability insurance will cover us in the event the tree does fall, seeing as we do know for a fact that the tree is a hazard, however, we presented a reasonable course of action to remove the hazard and were denied the opportunity to carry out the works recommended by the surveyors/professionals.

    Do we have a choice to not pay the higher works costs and give into the RA's demands? Will our insurance protect us enough if we choose to leave the tree alone?
    Last edited by Confused77; 15th November 2023, 14:40:PM.
    Tags: None

  • #2
    You need to read the wording of the policy but you would almost certainly be in some difficulty getting your insurers to pay the claim if the tree fell.

    That is because you have a general duty under the policy to take reasonable steps to avoid a loss and in this case not only have you been alerted to the risk by the neighbours whose property might be damaged but you have received expert opinion from a tree surgeon that I assume says the tree could fall at any time and should be removed.

    All opinions expressed are based on my personal experience. I am not a lawyer and do not hold any legal qualifications.


    • #3
      I would contact the Council, I know it's not in their remit, but the RA are being unreasonable. Speak / also in writing, to the local Councillor, tell them you are getting mixed messages from the RA, they are saying in one 'breath' it's dangerous, in another they want to take the 'slowest route to felling the tree', they can't have it both ways. They are trying to. Because it's a Health and Safety issue, all parties need to do what it takes, that includes the RA.

      Explain to the Councillor that this is a H & S matter, but the RA 'aren't playing ball'.


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