Judiciary Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-5220

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING A PROPERTY OWNER'S LIABILITY FOR THE EXPENSES OF REMOVING A FALLEN TREE OR LIMB.

Vote Date:

4/2/2014

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

2/24/2014

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Judiciary Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

Owners of trees that fall and cause damages to the neighbor's property are not currently responsible, even if they are aware of or have been warned of the danger their tree may cause.

SUBSTITUTE LANGUAGE:

Removes language relating to an arborist inspect of the diseased or dying tree.

Provides for the written notice to the property owner to be by certified mail; that the property owner has thirty calendar days to prune or remove the tree; and that any notices provided prior to October 1, 2014, consistent with subdivision (1) of subsection (a) shall be valid notice for the purposes of Section 1.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

None submitted.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Representative Fred Camillo – Last year this bill passed out of Judiciary but failed in the House. Many constituents, who have had to pay for damage done by their neighbors' trees, have contacted me asking for a correction to this problem. Not only is the cost an issue for these people but often the feuds that arise. We made sure the bill is narrowly tailored and that certain conditions need to be met, namely a licensed Arborist's determination that the tree is diseased, that proper notice was given to the homeowner who owns the tree in question and that the owner of the tree in question failed to remove the tree or limbs after receiving the proper notice.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Connecticut Forest & Park Association, Eric Hammerling, Executive Director -

There are several reasons to oppose this bill:

1. This bill is unnecessary. Municipal tree wardens, the front lines in every community on tree management issues, already advise landowners to work together with an arborist to conduct tree risk management if circumstances require. You don't need to legislate this.

2. This bill is biased because it would provide unfair leverage to neighbors able to afford an arborist determination, and work against landowners who can't afford to either hire an arborist to give a second opinion, or to pay the expenses associated with tree or limb removal.

3. The language in Raised Bill 5220 is too loose, in particular the determination by the arborist of whether a tree or limb is “likely to fall.” This determination is certainly subjective and debatable amongst arborists, and there is no option available to the private landowner with the tree/limb on their property to contest the finding of the arborist hired by the adjoining landowner.

4. Raised Bill 5220 is unfairly stacked against a landowner who may own forest land involving many boundaries with neighbors. Removal of trees and limbs can be quite expensive, and the liability associated with these trees can compel a landowner with a large forested property to remove trees (that provide considerable societal benefits) prematurely.

For the most part, neighbor-to-neighbor squabbles over boundary trees can and should be worked out by neighbors in an amicable fashion that fits the local conditions, not in a way that can quickly become litigious and drive wedges between neighbors.

South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority, Lori Vitagliano, Government Relations Specialist -

1. The language in the proposed bill seems to be vague and uncertain. As such, HB 5220 should be revised to focus on trees that pose a hazard to adjacent property and the identification of hazardous trees must be made by a licensed Arborist.

2. Forest, farm, or open space land should be exempt, at least if such forest, farm, or

open space land use predates the current use of the abutting property.

3. The State Vegetation Management Task Force recommendations should guide any new legislation about hazardous trees.

Reported by: Elizabeth Santangelo

Date: April 21, 2014