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According to The Tree Council, up to 80%(1) of the UK’s Ash trees are at risk of being killed by the devastating fungal disease, Ash dieback. Much of this impact is expected in the next 5-10 years(2).
With this in mind, Aviva has put together the following information for people with Ash trees on or near their properties:
Ash dieback is a serious fungal disease which was first recorded in Britain in 2012. It affects trees in different ways, although common symptoms include spotted and wilted leaves, and losing leaves at the top of the tree. However, some trees may develop dark patches at the base, without any signs in leaves or branches, so it’s best to seek professional advice from a tree specialist if you’re unsure.
Once the fungus takes hold, dead or infected branches - or even the whole tree - can become brittle and may fall. Ash dieback also enables other diseases to accelerate more quickly in trees, which again can lead to their death.
Ash trees are one of the most common varieties in the UK, with an estimated 60 million situated outside woodlands across the nation. They can grow to heights of 35 meters and are sometimes found in groups, producing a domed canopy. Ash trees have browny-grey bark which splits or ‘fissures’ as the tree gets older. In winter, Ash trees will show black, velvety buds on their smooth twigs.
Ash leaves are light green and usually come in 3-6 opposite pairs on a stem, often with a ‘terminal’ leaf at the end. They are oval in shape and fall while they are still green.
If a tree is killed or weakened by Ash dieback, it could become unstable and lose branches or even fall, potentially causing damage to properties, vehicles or even people.
Aviva claims data shows a single falling branch can cause several thousands of pounds worth of damage, while an entire toppling tree can take this figure to tens of thousands or even six figure sums. Such an event can be hugely distressing for those affected, so Aviva is urging residents to check their trees, in case they need to be treated or taken down.
Most home insurance policies will provide cover for damage to buildings and contents caused by falling trees or branches, while comprehensive motor insurance will normally cover damage caused by falling objects.
However, it’s always worth checking your policy to understand any exclusions and any obligations you may have. Most home insurance policies will require that you keep the property in good condition and may specify that trees and shrubs should be kept well-trimmed. It’s also common for damage to hedges and fences to be excluded if caused by falling trees / branches or storm damage.
If the tree is on someone else’s property, the onus is on them to put right any damage caused. However, if you have home insurance (or motor insurance if your vehicle is affected), you should contact them in the first instance and they should be able to liaise with the party responsible / their insurer.
If a claim for damage to buildings is accepted, some insurers will pay reasonable costs to have the tree or branches removed from the property, but this may not cover any part which remains below the ground.
Most standard home insurance policies will not cover removal of a tree affected by Ash dieback. However, the risks of not cutting down a tree affected by the disease are considerable, so removal of an infected tree is highly recommended if it cannot be treated successfully.
If you think you may have a tree with symptoms of the disease, you can report them through TreeAlert in Britain and TreeCheck in Northern Ireland. If you’re unsure whether your tree has the disease, consult a professional.
There are no set rules about how often a tree should be inspected. However, if you own a tree and fail to inspect it, you could be considered to be negligent should something happen. Equally, in law if it is obvious to a layperson that there is something wrong with a tree and they fail to do anything about it then they could be considered negligent.
An inspection can be done by the tree owner. The National Tree Safety Group’s ‘Common sense risk assessment of trees’ is a good place to find information. However, for trees in high risk areas (e.g. overhanging a public footpath) or where there is any concern about the safety of a tree it is best to have a professional inspection (see below).
Many tree surgeons or arboricultural consultants will be members of a professional body – such as The Arboricultural Association – and will need to adhere to its standards. However, if your expert is not a member of such an organisation you should seek assurances that they have:
* Professional indemnity insurance
* Public liability insurance
* A Level 3 arboricultural qualification
This story was published on: 21/05/2021
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