Q. I live in a condo complex, in a townhouse. A large tree was removed last summer because it supposedly posed a threat to my home. However, the roots were left and have destroyed the foundation and concrete of my patio. I was advised this is structural damage from the tree that was removed by the HOA. They claim they are not responsible for repairing or compensating me for the damage. The bylaws state only maintenance and upkeep are my responsibility. What do you think?
—Getting to the Root of the Problem
A. “The answer to your question largely depends on who is responsible for the tree,” says Jennifer Alexander, shareholder at law firm Griffin Alexander, with several offices in New Jersey. “You state that your bylaws only hold you responsible for maintenance and upkeep—but for maintenance and upkeep of what? If you are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of trees on your lot, or something to that effect, then you would likely be responsible for the damage to your foundation and patio. Conversely, if upkeep and maintenance of the trees is entirely the responsibility of the HOA, then the HOA would likely be responsible for the damage inflicted by its roots. The key word here is ‘likely.’ The exact wording of the bylaws and the timeline of damages are all important things to consider. It’s always wise to seek out an attorney who can review the HOA’s governing documents and provide you with a more comprehensive opinion and recommendation.”