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Neighbors take tree felling fight to BC court

Neighbors take tree felling fight to BC court

Neighbors take tree felling fight to BC court

A BC man who reneged on an agreement to split the cost of tree removal with his next-door neighbour will now have to pay the full amount, a BC civil settlement ruled.

Adam Smith received $3,675 in compensation from his neighbor, Graham Smith, as damages for “unjust enrichment,” according to the decision posted online last week.

There was no dispute that the tree itself was on one side of the property line, but its roots went beyond the boundary, according to a decision posted online last week.

“The roots of a large cedar tree located on the defendant’s property crossed the property line onto the applicant’s property and began to grow toward the applicant’s home. “The tree roots began to buckle the floor in the plaintiff’s basement, among other things,” wrote Vice President Andrea Ritchie.

The neighbors initially agreed to split the cost of cutting down the tree, but the day before it was due, Graham Smith told his neighbor he would only pay 25 percent. In the end, he paid nothing at all.

The first issue the court had to decide was whether it was more likely than not that the tree had caused the damage to Adam Smith’s property. The evidence considered included recordings of telephone calls in which Graham Smith agreed to pay part of the cost of removal and admitted that the tree had caused the damage.

“I find that the tree was a danger to the applicant’s property,” Ritchie wrote, adding that the tree caused “unreasonable interference” to the neighbour, meaning it met the test of being a nuisance and it was Graham Smith’s responsibility to deal with it.

“I believe that defendant failed to adequately treat the nuisance cedar tree, despite consistently acknowledging that it was a nuisance and caused damage,” Ritchie’s decision continued.

The court concluded that Adam Smith’s decision to proceed with tree removal even after his neighbor backed out of the agreement to share the cost was reasonable under the circumstances.

Ritchie explained why the law of unjust enrichment applied in this case.

“I find that the defendant was enriched because a nuisance tree was removed from his property at no cost to him. The plaintiff undisputedly paid to have the tree removed, resulting in economic loss. I also find that there was no valid basis for the defendant’s enrichment,” he wrote, while rejecting Graham Smith’s argument that he should only pay the 50 percent he initially agreed to.

“I find that the applicant is not bound by its previous offer to share the costs equally because the respondent rejected that offer,” Ritchie wrote.

After adding court fees and pre-judgment interest, Graham Smith was ordered to pay his neighbor a total of $4,035.77.