Unconvinced that "good fences make good neighbors," Robert Frost probably wouldn't care if the neighbor's tree smashed his. Not so for the rest of us. A recent PEMCO Poll shows that Northwesterners are fuzzy on fence-maintenance responsibilities, and most incorrectly believe that the owner of the errant tree is at least partially obligated to fix the damaged fence (or shed, garage, or landscape feature) on their property.
The question gets tricky because we may not know for certain who owns the fence separating our yard from our neighbor's. Generally, if the fence sits on your side of the property line, it's yours. If it runs right down the property line, it's shared. In the Poll, about half the respondents said they owned their fence, one-third said it's shared, and oddly, only 10% said the neighbors own it. The rest didn't know.
But regardless of who claims ownership, if it's damaged by a falling tree, almost three-fourths thought that either the tree's owner or a combination of the neighbor's and their own insurance companies should pay for damage. Only 18% got it right: Barring negligence on the part of the tree's owners (for example, they knew it was rotten and likely to fall), the fence owner's own insurance company generally pays.
The same is true even if a tree smashes right through the living room.
In the case of shared fences, each party's insurance company will pay its "insurable interest" (50% assuming each person owns half of the fence) to cover repairs, minus each policy's deductible.
Check out the complete results of the poll here.