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Local arborist explains what to do to prevent tree damage, costly repairs to your home

Posted at 5:28 PM, Dec 02, 2019

LAKEWOOD, Ohio — John Palmer is a self-proclaimed “Tree Doctor.” The professional arborist told News 5 he isn’t surprised to see trees go down and damage homes, especially during severe weather events.

“No one wants to hear that maybe they're going to have to spend thousands or many, many thousands of dollars to take out a tree,” Palmer said.

But Palmer says that costly decision can be prevented.

“If you have a concern you need to mention it to someone.”

Despite growing concerns about her neighbor's tree, Cassie Widlak told News 5 she expressed concerns to friends, but never shared her worries with the tree's owner.

She explained, “because I only took pictures and have text messages and a lot of conversations it doesn't prove the fact that this tree wasn't taken down by an act of God.”

On Thanksgiving Eve, strong winds uprooted the tree Widlak was concerned about for years. It left behind quite the mess in her backyard, including extensive damage to her fencing. Without proof of negligence, she's on the hook for her deductible to make repairs.

If you're worried about a tree on your neighbor's property, your first step should be to notify them about your concerns.

“They recommend a certified letter so that you have a record that they got that and they signed for that,” Palmer said.

Next, call a certified professional.

“You can look at a tree and say 'well gosh that tree looks fine or oh my god that tree is going to fall' well your assessment of that tree doesn't carry much weight,” said Palmer.

Palmer suggests calling in an expert to inspect a tree you’re concerned about even if it’s on your property.

But how do you know who is responsible for a tree?

"Whosoever property the trunk is on, that’s who owns the tree," Palmer said.

You can also reach out to local officials. However, the city of Lakewood only steps in to help if there is a high risk to public safety.

“Regarding private property trees, the city may get involved if a tree poses a significant risk to public safety within the public right-of-way,” said Lakewood’s Streets and Forestry Division Manager and Arborist, Chris Perry. “Also, in rare and extreme cases, the city may get involved with private trees that may pose a great risk to adjacent property and not impacting the public right-of-way – i.e. homes, garages and people, but only steps in after the property owners are unable to come to a resolution on their own with the neighboring property owner(s) or if a significant hazard refuses to be addressed.”

Perry explained there are a number of large private trees in significant decline throughout Lakewood that need to be addressed.

“It is never an easy decision to make and the cost can by quite high for many backyard removals in Lakewood due to the limited space challenges to get certain equipment close to the trees that need attention,” he said.

Regardless of how you raise awareness about a tree, Palmer recommends keeping a paper trail of all your efforts.

“Taking those steps and documenting what you've been doing is a very good thing to do.”

RELATED: Lakewood woman forced to pay for damage caused by uprooted tree in neighbor's backyard