Branch falls off tree onto tenants car

So I have a property that has a couple tall palm trees in the front yard.

Tenants wanted them trimmed as debris was getting on the driveway and their cars.

They found a gardener, signed a contract for the gardener to fulfill the requested work and paid him directly. We then deducted the payment $1200 from rent. All communication and agreement had been done between tenant and gardener. Turns out the gardener reneged on trimming certain parts of the trees and wanted more money. He claimed the quote did not reach past a certain height.

At this point, we told the tenants we authorized them for the $1200 in good faith that this amount would cover all necessary trimmings they wanted done around the house/yard.

Fast forward to today. It has been quite windy, and I got a call from the tenant stating that some of the palm leaves have fallen off and onto the car and scratched/dented the car. She wants me to pay for it. She claims that the tree is mine and it is not trimmed and therefore my liabliity. I respond with, you hired the contractor/gardener directly, we agreed to pay his fee by deducting rent and he screwed you by mis-quoting.

Bottom line: can she come after me? What is my liability?

After doing some brief research online, it looks like I would not be liable as I was pro-active in addressing the yard situation. Also, it was so very windy on that day, it could just be considered an act of nature.

Anyone else have some thoughts?

Tell them to file against their Renters’ Insurance…

Surely they have insurance…


Would renters insurance cover that???

Depends on the policy…you don’t know until you ask. Their auto insurance might cover it, too…


I think the gardener’s liable. The gardener can’t renege on his contract; that would make him negligent for liability arising from not fulfilling his contract.

And like you said, the issue was brought to your attention and you gave them $1200 in good faith to resolve the issue. Why should you be held liable for a contractor’s shoddy work? You took reasonable steps to deal with the issue when it was brought to your attention, so where is your negligence? The tenants also had the option of getting quotes from other gardeners when the first gardener said he wouldn’t do it all. $1200 is a lot of money for trimming a tree and that sounds like a more than reasonable amount to trim a tree and would have been done if they’d gotten multiple quotes.

Bottom line: they’ve got to prove you were negligent or not dealing with the issue in small claims court or tenant court. It doesn’t sound like they did. The only negligence I see is by the contractor they hired.

Lesson: don’t pay the tenant to fix things; hire contractors or do the work yourself.

I’ll second what Dave said.

YOU should be the one to pick your contractors!

Imagine if a branch had fallen on a six month old baby and killed it.

It’s the tenants job to bring maintenance issues to your attention, it’s your job to get them fixed.

If you want to escape this kind of liability hire a property manager, otherwise it’s your responsibility to fix any REAL issues brought by up by your tenant.

I experienced the same a couple years ago and my insurance would not pay for damages to my tenant’s car as they consider that to be an act of nature. The only time they would have paid is if the tree was rotted and I (the owner) failed to cut the branch before the storm.