One of Charlotte’s most beautiful features is also one of its greatest vulnerabilities: trees. Charlotte has a magnificent canopy with some trees in Elizabeth, Dilworth and Myers Park more than 100 years old. The National Arbor Day Foundation has recognized Charlotte as a “Tree City USA” for 42 years and counting.
If Hurricane Ian (and Hurricane Hugo if you’ve been here awhile) taught us anything, it’s to be prepared for a worst-case scenario. When storms topple our big, beautiful trees it can be dangerous and cause significant damage. So, let’s talk about how to prevent precarious situations and what to do when a tree falls on or around your home.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY TREES ARE VULNERABLE?
There are often tell-tale signs that your trees are dying. Here are a few things to look out for:
- Large, dead branches on the tree
- Sticks on the ground
- Bark falling off
- Rot or fungus that you can see
- Mushrooms growing around the trunk or roots
- Large holes in the trunk or main branches
- Leaves falling in the Summer
If you are concerned about your trees, contact a professional arborist. You can find a certified one through the International Society of Arboriculture. They will remove the tree if necessary and they can also prune trees to keep them healthy and protect your home.
WHAT DO I DO IF TREES ARE ON OR NEAR OVERHEAD WIRES?
Most importantly: don’t try and fix it yourself! It can be dangerous, even deadly. Utilities are responsible for keeping their wires clear, so contact them directly.
Here are some helpful links:
WHO’S RESPONSIBLE FOR STREET TREES?
If you’re in Charlotte’s city limits and the trees are on public property, the city is responsible.
If you think those trees are sick or need pruning contact tree management. An inspector will come take a look and send a crew to do any necessary work.
If a city-maintained tree falls on your property, it gets a little complicated. The city will clean-up anything that’s on the street. But, you need to contact your insurance company and hire someone to remove the tree and any debris that is on your property. After it’s all done, you can file a claim with the City of Charlotte Risk Management office. We should warn you, it’s not a quick process. The investigation can take up to six weeks before any payment would be made.
If you are located outside of Charlotte city limits, contact the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
WHAT IF ONE OF MY TREES FALLS?
The city will clear trees and limbs that are blocking public streets. But, they’ll put the debris on your property where the tree was growing and it’s your responsibility to get it cleaned up.
WHAT IF MY NEIGHBOR’S TREE FALLS ON MY PROPERTY?
- If the tree falls and there is no damage, you and your neighbor are going to have to work it out to get it cleaned up.
- If it causes damage, things get a little more complicated.
- If a healthy tree falls during a storm, where it lands determines who is responsible. So, if your tree falls on your neighbor’s garage, your neighbor and their insurance company pay for the damage (and vice versa).
But (and this is a big one), if that tree was obviously dead or dying, the tree owner is responsible for the damage. So, don’t put off taking care of any sick trees. If your neighbor has a tree that you think is threatening your home, tell them about it. If they don’t take action, take photos and send them a certified letter, so if something happens you have proof that your neighbor knew about the problem beforehand.
The bottom line here is don’t wait until a storm is coming to worry about your trees; keep an eye on them year-round. If something is wrong, fix it. If it’s someone else’s responsibility, make sure THEY fix it. A little effort on your part can protect your home and Charlotte’s beautiful tree canopy.