No doubt, most California residents would rather not get into a dispute with their neighbors. However, when it comes to trees and the possible dangers they pose, it may not be possible to avoid one.
Whenever a property owner's tree falls and causes damage to a neighbor's property, certain factors must exist before the owner of the tree can be held liable for damages. For instance, if the tree owner failed to take care of the tree, and it fell as a direct result of the owner's negligence, then the owner is responsible for any resulting damage. Likewise, if a neighbor warned the tree owner of a precarious looking tree limb, and the limb dropped from the tree and damaged the neighbor's property, the tree owner could be held liable for damages.
If a property owner plants a young tree that grows and uproots a neighbor's fence or sidewalk, the tree owner is responsible for removing the tree. However, tree owners are not responsible for nuts, leaves, acorns or other such debris that falls from their trees and land on neighboring property.
Tree owners are also not responsible for damages in certain situations, such as if the tree owner properly maintained the tree, but a storm caused the tree or a limb from the tree to fall and damage a neighbor's property. Further, if a tree fell solely because of an act of God, and it damaged a neighbor's property, the tree owner is not liable for those damages because they were unforeseen.
A neighbor dispute about trees can quickly destroy the peace and tranquility of those involved. If the dispute cannot be peacefully settled, real estate attorneys might provide some direction.
FindLaw, "Neighbor Disputes: Trees", Sept. 28, 2016