An expert in rural law is warning landowners to take responsibility for hazardous trees on their property, or risk facing the legal consequences.
Alex Sykes, solicitor in the Rural team at Napthens solicitors, warns that damage caused to a person or property as a result of an unsafe tree means liability automatically lies with the landowner or occupier of the land on which the tree is situated.
Trees can become unsafe and pose a serious threat of injury or death as a result of factors including old age, decay, structural weakness and weather damage.
However, Alex, a former forestry agent who regularly advises clients on such issues, warns that landowners have some legal protection if they can prove that steps have been taken to reduce risks.
Alex said: “As a landowner or tenant, it is your duty of care to regularly check trees on your land. While you can’t always foresee an accident, it is your responsibility to make sure the property is safe.
“Even if the land is private, if it is accessible to the public then the rule still applies, even if people are found to be trespassing.
“It’s important to carry out regular inspections and risk assessments and keep a record, especially immediately after bad weather such as a storm or high winds. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, be sure to seek professional advice. Any hazardous trees must be dealt with, whether that’s cutting back branches or removing the whole tree.
“As long as you can prove you’ve assessed the risks and taken steps to minimise them, then if an incident does occur you will at least have a defence in the eyes of the law.”