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grumpyfish's avatar

Question about homeowner's liability?

Asked by grumpyfish (6596 points ) February 22nd, 2010

What’s actually happened is that a 25 foot tall ice stalagmite fell intact off my neighbor’s house and struck mine at 5:30am today. It landed directly between two windows, and other than some minor cosmetic damage to the house, nothing is broken.

What I’m curious about is the hypothetical situation where the had hit a window and broke it, possibly injuring the people inside, and how the legal theory would work out?

The house next door is a rental property with a private landlord (e.g., no management company), but would the landlord be negligent in not cleaning the ice off his house (as I have done, and as the other rental property on the other side did)—is this a “standard of care” issue?

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26 Answers

BoBo1946's avatar

25 foot…wow…how long has this been there Grumpyfish?

grumpyfish's avatar

It was complete ground to roof for most of the last week—the roof end of it melted the last two days as the temperatures have been finally above freezing!

BoBo1946's avatar

Did you warn the renter of this situation? If so, there could be some liability. Liability would depend on the facts of the loss.

Very similiar situation, would be a rotten limb. The owner has to be warn of the situation prior to a loss.

Most rental policy has a limited amount of medical coverage (usually, $1000..this coverage is there regardless of liability). To pay over the medical limits, liability has to be proven. Most rental policies have $300,000 limits on liablity and this would include medical coverage and property damage.

grumpyfish's avatar

@BoBo1946 Interesting! I didn’t warn the renters because I didn’t expect it to fall like this. A few months ago another one had formed and it simply melted off rather than falling off in one big piece.

DrBill's avatar

Turn it in to your insurance company, if your neighbor is liable, your insurance co will take care of collecting from the them.

@BoBo1946 I own rental property and have a $1,000,000.00 liability policy

BoBo1946's avatar

@grumpyfish most states would require that you warn the owner. But, having said that, if someone received some serious injuries, have seen the courts rule in favor of the person injuried regardless of liability.

BoBo1946's avatar

@DrBill do you have an umbrella policy? Usually, to get that much coverage an umbrella policy would be necessary.

BoBo1946's avatar

@DrBill, you are very wise to have that coverage in today’s legal climax!

BoBo1946's avatar

@grumpyfish Every insurance adjuster see liability different. One would extend coverage and the next one, not. Liability is a very tricky thing. It is usually based on what would a reasonable person do in this situation.

Cupcake's avatar

@grumpyfish You could always call your insurance company and ask for coverage/general information… which I would always do before placing a claim (not that you would even place a claim in this example). That way you can get the information you need (complete with local info about whether you need to have notified your neighbor) without necessarily having raised rates next year.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Cupcake very true or call his agent. Having said that, most states require warning of a dangerous situation for liability to enter the equation.

CMaz's avatar

It is called an act of God.

grumpyfish's avatar

Thanks guys!

@ChazMaz “Act of God” is actually defined as something not preventable, which this was (since my other neighbor prevented it with some roofer guys and a pick the day before)

BoBo1946's avatar

Hurricane, tornadoes, etc. would be an act of God. Those damages cannot be prevented. A huge piece of ice can be removed before damage occurs.

CMaz's avatar

I see your point.
A 25 foot tall ice stalagmite became a “standard of care” issue because of its size.

There was plenty of time to remove it. So when it comes to ice stalagmites, I guess there is a length/size that would void the act of God clause.

john65pennington's avatar

I had an old pine tree in my front yard for years. my wife kept telling me that the tree needed to be cut down, since half of the tree was already dead. i ignored my wifes advice and it cost me. a strong wind storm came through overnight and took part of my pine tree and deposited it into my neighbors roof next door. i was liable and i knew it. thank goodnes my homeowners paid the biggest majority of the repair bill. in your situation, hopefully you gave the renter and the owner a warning of the stalagmite. if there was no time for a warning, the property owner would ultimately be responsible for any damages to you or your property.

BoBo1946's avatar

@john65pennington ummmm..the insurance company should have paid for all the damages. Well, that is the way it is in my state.

BoBo1946's avatar

@john65pennington an open and odvious rotten tree is a liability claim, no doubt. However, if there was one rotten limb in the tree that no one could see, your neighbor would have to file that under his insurance. At least here, that is the way it is!

grumpyfish's avatar

@BoBo1946 Could be @john65pennington has a deductible

Now to remember to get the landlord’s phone number next I see him… Nothing damaged or injuries this time, but will definitely want to warn him of things…

BoBo1946's avatar

@grumpyfish good point, but in my state, there is no deductible on a liability claim.

Cupcake's avatar

It seems like you should just be required to notify the tenants and they should have to notify the owner. Why should you have to track down the owner of your neighboring property to notify them of their own property? That seems above and beyond necessary. I don’t understand why a note to the people living next door wouldn’t be enough.

I’m not speaking legally… I’m just talking about my practical view.

grumpyfish's avatar

@Cupcake The folks next door are the type of college students who are not particularly proactive, even about turning off lights. If I were concerned about something on that house, I wouldn’t trust them to forward the message to the landlord (from a legal standpoint, it might be enough), so if I needed something done I’d just call the landlord.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Cupcake legally, tenant have no responsiblity in the manner. As Grumpyfish said, they could not be trusted anyway. The owner is the one who has the responsibility to keep his property safe.

Cupcake's avatar

I get that @BoBo1946. I just don’t understand why it would be my responsibility to hunt down contact info for the owner of my neighboring property if they don’t live next door.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Cupcake understood…but, the claim is between the owner of the property and Grumpyfish.

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