“We live on a large, forest-like parcel in California, covered with trees, down a long private road. We share a reciprocal driveway easement with our neighbors, they park on our property and we drive across theirs. The easement documentation provides that we share in the costs of paving the easement. It does not address trees or other maintenance issues.
Some of our trees hanging over the area where they park have old, thick branches that could fall and damage their cars. Who is responsible for trimming the trees and keeping them safe?
I have learned that trimming trees endangering a neighbor’s home is the tree-owner’s responsibility, and we own the trees. But the only danger here arises through our neighbors’ easement, and I have learned (from your website, thanks for the great information!!!) that maintaining an easement is the beneficiary’s responsibility. Which of these laws governs here? Note that the area around where they park (on our property) is fenced for their benefit, so we don’t have easy access to this area. But for the easement, this area would be unkempt wilderness.”
That’s a really good question–which is lawyer-speak for I don’t know the answer for sure. My educated guess would be that you are responsible as owners of the tree, since tree-trimming isn’t usually what is thought of in terms of maintaining an easement. That doesn’t mean that you can’t agree with your neighbor on some cost-sharing, since the trimming would be primarily for their benefit.
If all else fails, though, consider this: If nobody trims the trees and a branch destroys a car (or heaven forbid injures someone), do you think your homeowner’s insurance won’t step up? In other words, the liability is yours, so you should take reasonable steps to limit it.