While they may seem inconspicuous, trees are living structures in a constant state of growth and movement. Their activity can never be fully predicted, and a broken branch or storm damage could result in a costly liability claim. The courts would not accept ignorance as a defence, as tree consultants can be hired to assess the risk.
It isn’t just falling branches which pose a threat however; trees can sometimes grow near buildings and cause problems. The pressure caused by the roots doesn’t need to touch your structure - instead the presence of the roots nearby can cause damage. There is also a threat of secondary harm from soil shrinkage which can eventually result in subsidence. These issues can be circumvented by learning the correct tree planting distances for the soil type surrounding your properties, with clay soil usually more susceptible than other types.
How else can land and property owners and/or managing agents protect themselves from this largely unpredictable risk?
One way to do so is a survey of tree conditions, which when paired with a hazard assessment or risk assessment can establish the potential problems that the trees surrounding your property could pose. A tree condition survey, hazard assessment, or risk assessment on its own is no guarantee against risk though. Insurance is also a vital part of your risk mitigation package, and covers can (and should) include property damage, employer’s liability and public liability to protect your business in the event of a tree failure. These easily implemented steps could prevent a lawsuit, bankruptcy and even a jail sentence.
This isn’t a one-time task however; regular tree management and surveys should be implemented so that if an incident does occur you can prove that due diligence has been carried out.
At Gallagher, our Real Estate team can not only help you with arranging an insurance package to protect your properties against the risks posed by trees but also assist you with organising tree surveys and risk assessments to identify issues before they escalate.