Walnuts fall on cars on the driveway, who is responsible for dent

38 Replies

My rental has a driveway for two cars where tenants park their cars. They also can park on the street next to the house with 4 free township parking permits which they got. It happens that there is a large walnut tree close to the driveway and the nuts fall on the cars in the fall season. These walnuts are 3~4 inch in diameter and quite heavy, so they can make a dent in the cars I think: https://www.farmanddairy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/DickieBirdFarm-BlackWalnuts.jpg 

The tenant wrote to me saying if I can trim the tree or find some other quick fix because they noticed dents on the hood of the car.

How do you suggest I should handle this request?

If you lived there what would you do? I️ would cut the tree down if I️ lived there or if it was my rental. It is only because I️ would not park there or want the lawsuit.

I don't think I would cut it down unless street parking was not an option (plus I'm an Environmental Scientist... I like trees) - I would let them know about the tree, and tell them to expect to park on the street when it's producing walnuts.

On another note - if you're sure it's black walnut, the wood is very valuable!

I too am not one to be so quick to cut down trees. Trees are not an automatic liability. We need them. Anyway, my leases state that parking is at their own risk. At my own house, I deal with acorns every early Fall season falling onto my car--and yes, it's left some small dents.

We trimmed back some branches, but unfortunately, it didn't seem to help. And we didn't want to trim so much that the tree was killed. So you could be kind and offer to get it trimmed, but let them know it is no guarantee.

If the tree is of value for lumber sell it otherwise take it down.

@Megan Philips and @Thomas S. 

I am not sure if it is a black walnut. The nuts look exactly like in the picture in my previous post.

If the wood is valuable, I would be happy to let someone cut it down for free.

Any ideas where I could make such offer?

craigslist 

A black walnut tree can be worth up to 20K so you may want to determine exactly what you have before you give it away.

Call a local lumber mill after you have done your research.

Really that much... wow

Thank you all for your inputs.

For now, I posted an ad on craigslist

Also, I will see if I can find a contact to a local lumber mill as Thomas S. suggests.

Last option would be to go with the estimate from tree service company to remove two trees (the walnut and oak as per picture on craigslist ad) for $3,500

That would kill all my cash flow for half a year --- omg

@Marcin G. ,

At first I was going to say, juts trim the branches, but from the picture, it looks like the entire tree hovers over the driveway.. so I would do what others have suggested-- offer to give away the lumber in exchange for taking it down.  You can try selling it, but that will require you transporting it, and that looks like a really big tree, probably not worth the stress and physical labor. 

Good luck!  You're doing the right thing, hope it works out!

@Marcin G. remove the tree or at a minimum the offending branches. Maybe you can sell the wood. Plant another tree in it's place if you want. I have had the same issue with apple trees, just too much maintenance for a rental property. I love trees, but certain species and locations don't mix.

I am also thinking that tree may be way too close to your foundation. Maybe it is not as close as it looks in the picture, but the roots can destroy your foundation or grow into sewer or drain tile. Big trees should not be close to houses.

Originally posted by @Marcin G. :

Really that much... wow

Thank you all for your inputs.

For now, I posted an ad on craigslist: https://cnj.craigslist.org/zip/6379131200.html

Also, I will see if I can find a contact to a local lumber mill as Thomas S. suggests.

 DON'T do this lol, this is seriously the worst idea you could possibly come up with. Free and Craigslist is going to get you some interesting people who are going to be anything but insured to come hack down this tree. You're probably going to at best have someone get hurt at worst someone get hurt and tree crash into your house.

You might be able to get your utility company to pay for some of it if it's a danger to the power line...

@Marcin G.

I would simply tell them to park in the 4 free township parking permits that you had mentioned and avoid cutting down the tree altogether. 

Maybe you could add a car port. Something quick with a metal roof. Saves the tree and satisfies the tenants.

I agree. I WOULD NOT run that add.  Everybody will be showing up for those trees. And they have probable never cut a tree down before.

https://www.harborfreight.com/automotive-motorcycle/car-canopies.html tell tenant they can deduct it from their rent...

@Marcin G. If you do get responses, get PROOF that they're insured for the work they're doing.  Last thing you need is a liability lawsuit for some knucklehead that severs their arm with a chainsaw that they just bought at a yard sale.

Originally posted by @Charlie MacPherson :

@Marcin G. If you do get responses, get PROOF that they're insured for the work they're doing.  Last thing you need is a liability lawsuit for some knucklehead that severs their arm with a chainsaw that they just bought at a yard sale.

 as the tree falls on his house and destroys his tenants priceless collection....

@Matt K.   ...priceless collection of diamond-encrusted Fabrege' eggs, no doubt.

Lawsuit amount = "what's the biggest number you can think of?"

I love how most of the replies are "cut it down" ... like humans aren't capable of living and existing near trees.

Once a person has notice of a hazard, the burden is on them to avoid it. 

If you had a lake in the backyard, would you try to find somebody to drain it or put up a sign that said "Danger, Keep Out" or similar?

Just keep your insurance premium paid up.

This situation is very different than your example of a lake, @Tom Gimer .  The walnut tree is not obviously a hazard or nuisance and could reasonably be construed as to deprive the tenant of partial use of the property for parking.  Parking would be a reasonable use of that space and possibly explicitly marketed as such.  The end result could be a legitimate tenant complaint that they cannot make full use of their tenancy as expected and legal complications or the tenant moves out.  Neither is good for the landlord.

Your lake example is more of a feature.  The lake is probably an obvious feature of the property and likely marketed to the tenant as a benefit of the property.  It may also come with restrictions, such as "No swimming" that could be declared in the lease.  The OP did not mention any such notice about falling walnuts to the tenant in the lease.

I think these discussions are great.  My first reaction was to cut down the tree too.  There are a number of creative approaches here for the OP to consider.  My favorite is the temporary canopy idea from @Matt K.   It is simple, lower cost and temporary such that it can be deployed when nuts are dropped and stored the rest of the year.  Great ideas!

@James Mc Ree Actually, trees are typically covered by nuisance law doctrines.

I have other examples which are probably a better fit than a lake (even though I stand by it!), but my point is DISCLOSE the problem and the burden shifts.

Oh, Mr. Tenant you appear to have been given notice of the issue concerning this particular tree. That's your signature on the Rules & Regs, right?

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