Willow Tree Roots

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Kaz
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Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2006 2:47 pm

Willow Tree Roots

Post by Kaz » Sun Feb 11, 2007 10:06 am

Hi, I wrote some time ago about the wall in my garden that has been subsided by my neighbours willow tree roots (as confirmed by Civil Engineer). Willow trees have been cut down to approx 3' stumps and have fresh shoots. My insurance does not cover the wall as it is not attached to my house. I have been told that neighbours will avoid liability because "as laypeople" they could not have known the damage these trees could have caused. By the way said neighbour is a retired fireman is it reasonable to expect that he should have known about the risk of his two immense willow trees? (I am not mad but merely allude to the fact that firemen go out to more than just fires). I have been told by my neighbours civil engineer that if I take them to small claims court it is expected that they will not be found liable and I will have to foot the neighbours legal costs...can anyone advise, is this true.

I am stuck as I cannot demolish my part of the wall without it bringing down the wall of my adjacent neighbour (as confirmed by civil engineer), then I will be liable for the costs attached to that damage!!! SO I have a dangerous wall, a portion of my garden that I and my children cannot use and the prospect of a large financial outlay to put things right...and all because my neighbours planted two willow trees about 3' from my wall and let them grow higher than my two storey house.....and they can sit smugly in their garden knowing they have got away with it...isn't justice great!!!

Treeman
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Post by Treeman » Sun Feb 11, 2007 11:47 am

What the other sides engineer has told you is broadly true but it does not necessarily follow that the courts will decide that way but it is likely if the other side has decent representation.

You can expect a fireman to know about extinguishing fires and performing rescue duties but just because the fire service has some staff trained in chainsaw use, in legal terms you can’t expect a retired fire-fighter to know the consequences of planting a tree. They can however be held responsible for any increased cost of cure since you formally notified them of the problem. The ongoing growth of the stumps means they haven’t yet abated the nuisance and the stumps should be treated to prevent further growth ASAP. I doubt this is going to make any real difference to the situation.

If avoiding litigation and costs is an issue, another route to try might be to get the works done and present the neighbour with the bill. If they fail to pay you can make a claim in the county courts for your costs.

Treeman

despair
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Post by despair » Sun Feb 11, 2007 12:14 pm

If you go to Small Claims Court to recover your costs of repairing the wall you CANNOT be held liable for the other sides costs

Your nfh have NOT abatted the nuiscance and thus the damage to your wall will continue so they cannot just sit smugly by and believe they have no responsibility

You need to Put them on Notice :-

That their trees continue to cause damage and nuiscance for which you hold them fully responsible and that if the wall falls and injures them or their vistors or causes any damage that they are liable since until they remove the trees and stumps you cannot repair your wall

Kaz
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Post by Kaz » Sun Feb 11, 2007 12:38 pm

Thanks for your responses. I am concerned over the issue of the remaining stumps as their civil engineer claims that they are not a threat because they have been cut down and are no longer absorbing as much water from the ground - so are you saying that the roots will continue to spread even when the trees are reduced to stumps.

Treeman
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Post by Treeman » Sun Feb 11, 2007 2:51 pm

The engineer’s statement about the water uptake is nonsense. As the stumps re grow (with abandon and vigour) they will use a lot of water to make new tissue. Granted it will be less in the first few seasons but it will increase. Pruning (even of this sort) is not the answer to controlling water uptake. Tell them to abate the nuisance and wave the “Delaware mansions” club at them (see case law Delaware mansions).

Just for clarity, is the damage to the wall due to soil shrinkage or are the trees lifting one side of he wall?

Treeman

Kaz
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Post by Kaz » Sun Feb 11, 2007 5:20 pm

The engineers report says "it is my opinion that the damage to the boundary wall at the bottom of the garden has been caused by the two large willow trees (now removed) in the neighbouring garden"

As you can see the engineer states that the trees have been removed and they have not they have merely been reduced. Also my neighbours and I share the same insurer and hence share the same civil engineer - albeit a different office!!

When he visited our property he said the roots were responsible for the movement but the letter is not as specific. He also said he could detect no damage to the main house but that there could be an ongoing problem, which he also ommitted to put in the letter.

despair
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Post by despair » Mon Feb 12, 2007 1:27 am

Someones trying to fool that Engineer me thinks

I am sure the Insurance Co would love to see a photo of those sprouting stumps because Willows go at one hell of a rate and their roots spread one hell of a way

Kaz
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Post by Kaz » Tue Feb 13, 2007 6:26 am

Well - someone's not playing ball!!

I have sent my neighbours a registered letter putting them on notice - and I have quoted Delaware Mansions - I await their response.

Strangely enough, the only letter I have received from my neighbours in this connection asked me to deal directly with their representatives - not a solicitor but the civil engineer - so they obviously don't want to get involved and are burying their heads in the sand. However, today they get my letter and hopefully will get involved.

Treeman
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Post by Treeman » Tue Feb 13, 2007 8:20 am

As a professional I acknowledge a bias towards dealing with professionals.

In my opinion you are better allowing your professional to deal with their professional.

I don’t think you can safely say they don’t want to get involved since they have engaged a professional to advise them. Clearly they are responsive and aren’t burying their heads.

I wouldn’t worry too much about the choice of expert at the moment. A lawyer would need to take on board advice from an engineer and if they are happy to deal with the preliminaries without a lawyer then so be it. Your latest letter might change that.

Things seldom get personal between professionals and it saves face for anyone in the wrong. It also makes permanent falling out less likely.

So what are the mechanics of this case? Is it subsidence or direct contact damage? It might have a bearing on any litigation.

Treeman

Maverick.uk
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Post by Maverick.uk » Tue Feb 13, 2007 12:54 pm

Treeman wrote: A lawyer would need to take on board advice from an engineer
Even if what they say is wrong! In our case the report the other side engineer wrote was complete hog wash!

Cheers

Mav

Kaz
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Post by Kaz » Tue Feb 13, 2007 7:07 pm

Actually, the only reason the civil engineer has become involved is via the neighbours insurers - prompted by a previous letter from us. We share the same civil engineers via our insurers (who are the same) and the insurers do not want to know but the neighbours do not seem to grasp this fact. This leaves us in a position, it seems, of hoping they will do the right thing and pay for the damage, as it seems we could not expect small claims court to find them liable - how can it avoid getting personal! (especially as this has been going on for more than a year).

The engineers letter is not specific, unlike his verbal comments, so I do not know what position this puts us in. The engineer, after all, is in the pay of the insurers and he is unlikely to aid our cause if it means said insurers will be out of pocket.

At the moment I feel like a Christmas turkey.....stuffed.

Treeman
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Post by Treeman » Tue Feb 13, 2007 8:39 pm

Maverick.uk wrote:
Treeman wrote: A lawyer would need to take on board advice from an engineer
Even if what they say is wrong! In our case the report the other side engineer wrote was complete hog wash!

Cheers

Mav
There will always be a minority in any profession that will put a spin on their reports but forgive me if I don’t loose faith in the world of structural engineers based on your opinion (unbiased in any way) of a statistical sample of………..

One

Treeman

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