What should your buyer know about trees?

Let me start by disclosing that I am not an Arborist, but a recent story in the local newspaper of a toppled tree, well over 100 feet, raised some interesting questions for me to consider as a Realtor.

Most urban jurisdictions regulate the conservation, removal and replacement of trees.

Whether a tree is deciduous (sheds all leaves) or evergreen, the health, regulation and safety of trees is important for buyers to know.

Establishing whether the tree is within the survey stakes should resolve ownership issues, but what are the possible consequences of roots that cross boundaries?

Buyers will likely not want to find out after the fact that they are the new owner of a:

– tree that compromises public safety (e.g. proximity to other houses or power lines);

– compromised rotting tree, caused by disease, insects or improper care;

– tree root system that has damaged drainage or foundations underground;

– garden or lawn that cannot be rehabilitated due to shade or root compacting;

– controversial tree that obstructs the view of neighbours from a new subdivision;

– “heritage” tree of community value; or,

– “topped” or otherwise damaged tree.

The majestic conifers (cedar, fir, spruce, etc.) that tower over residential areas of the Pacific North West where I live are sometimes seen as a threat during windstorms.

Tree topping is often thought to be a preventative measure for concerned homeowners, but I have just learned that this is a myth perpetrated by unscrupulous companies.

Apparently this procedure invites diseases and insects to move in, and all sorts of suckers to grow, which can considerably weaken, or shorten the span of, the life of a tree.  The results of tree topping might easily increase the risks and expense to a homeowner.

To help manage the risks associated with trees, here are seven due diligence tips for homebuyers:

1. The buyer can start by physically inspecting the direct area for potential issues.

2. A surveyor might be required to locate PK nails (a.k.a. Point Known) or Hub and Tack stakes to determine ownership of a tree.

3. Check the local tree control regulations at City Hall.

4. While at City Hall, check tree locations against easements, right-of-ways, etc.

5. Seek professional advice from a local Arborist.

6. Ensure that your home inspector is familiar with tree related issues.

7. Enquire about insurance availability (e.g. crushed roof, car, or other liabilities).

Hopefully taking these precautions will allow buyers to enjoy the tree, carefree, along with their new home.

1 thought on “What should your buyer know about trees?”

  1. According to the Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch, Neighbour Law:

    If your neighbour’s tree branches hang over your property, you can cut them, but only up to the property line. You cannot go onto your neighbor’s property or destroy the tree. The reverse situation is true, too.

    If your tree damages your neighbour’s property, for example, a branch falls on their roof during a storm, are you responsible? No, not unless you caused the damage intentionally or through negligence. Negligence means you did not take reasonable care in the situation. But if your tree roots go under their property and damage their pipes or foundation, you may be responsible. It depends on the facts of the case.

    This is not a legal opinion and should not be relied upon. Always seek professional legal advice from a lawyer.


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