Roots Cause House to Sink – Is the City Responsible?

A retired couple in Ottawa, Canada, says the city is partially responsible for the damage done to their home from an Emerald Ash tree in their front yard. The roots of the tree have encroached on the foundation of the house, causing significant structural damage. The couple contends that because the city has maintained the tree by trimming it regularly, they should be partially responsible for the damage it has done to the foundation.

The couple’s front of the house has sunk three feet into the ground, which means that they couldn’t even open their front door. “There was a great ‘bang,’ I thought for sure it was an earthquake,” said the homeowner when the front of the house sank. The house also had cracked walls and floors that have heaved.

The city sent a letter to the homeowners in July stating that the city isn’t liable for damages caused by the tree. “The tree in question was located wholly within the private property line and therefore belong to the resident, not the city,” said a city spokeswoman. She also explained that the city only maintained the tree to keep overhanging branches close to the road in check.

The couple has spent over $90,000 to fix the damages t their house, including $1000 to uproot the tree. A civil suit against the city has not been filed yet, but a forestry contractor who works for the city says the city may be partially responsible for the damages done by the tree.