Who pays when fallen tree crushes neighbor’s fence?

May 23

When we had that mini-tornado almost a year ago that ripped out many of the trees in our neighborhood, I remember you posting an article about who was responsible for a tree falling on a neighbor’s fence. I lost a tree and it fell on part on my neighbor’s fence, and he is becoming a bit belligerent over it.

The first thing you should do is review your homeowner’s insurance policy and see if you have coverage for the damage. If the extent of the damage is that your tree fell on your neighbor’s fence, you may not have insurance coverage for the tree and may also not have coverage for the damage it caused. Some insurance coverage only kicks in if the tree damages the home itself, not a fence or ancillary buildings.

If your insurance doesn’t cover damage to the fence, then it seems the neighborly thing for you to do is have the tree removed and repair the fence. That may or may not be the law in your state, but it certainly makes for good neighbors. If your neighbor’s tree fell on your fence, wouldn’t you expect him to remove the tree and fix the damage? And if the tree had fallen on your property only, we’d assume that you would have no issue removing the tree and paying for its removal. We’d think the same would be true when the tree fell on your neighbor’s yard.

Talk to an attorney for specific guidance on the law in your state.

You should also find out what it will cost to repair the fence. Once you know that cost, you’ll have a better idea of what you should do. If your neighbor’s fence is a standard type sold at the big box home improvement stores, the materials to repair the fence might not be more than $200. Adding in the cost of labor, if the repair is under $500, we suggest that you go ahead and take care of it.

Having good neighbors is helpful down the line when you need help or when things go wrong. You never know — the goodwill you create with your neighbor could come back to help you in the future.

Is a HARP 2.0 loan available for a condominium that is currently rented? The condominium was my personal residence over three years ago, but I’ve been renting it since then.

The condominium’s fair market value is approximately 50 percent to 60 percent of the amount I owe on my mortgage, so it is definitely underwater. The interest rate on the mortgage is 6.75 percent, so I know I can save money with a lower interest mortgage loan.

My loan payments are current and the rental income I receive is enough to cover my mortgage payment and expenses for the condominium. But I’d still love to refinance and pay less.

The most current incarnation of the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) does cover some rental properties that are underwater. But not every investor loan can be refinanced.

The new HARP.gov site recommends that you gather your personal financial information (such as your W-2 and tax information) and your mortgage documents. Then contact your lender about your loan. In addition to checking with your current lender, you can contact any of the lenders listed on the HARP.gov page. (It’s important to remember that you’re not limited in who can refinance you under the HARP program, but some lenders may be more discouraging than others about your prospects because they don’t really want the business.)

To qualify, your loan at a minimum must be owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and must have been originated before May 2009.

If you get turned down, you should ask the lender to speak to a HARP specialist who is more familiar with the different refinance options. And if you get turned down again, you should speak to several other lenders and their HARP specialists.

Because your property is a piece of investment real estate, you can’t expect to scoop up the kinds of super-low interest rates available to owner occupied properties. Your interest rate could be over 5 percent, although that will still save you money. You’ll have to consider what other expenses you might incur when and if you are able to refinance your loan. They may outweigh the benefits of the lower interest rate unless you plan on keeping your condominium for many years to come.

Ilyce R. Glink ’s latest book is “Buy, Close, Move In! Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate lawyer. If you have questions, you can call Glink’s radio show (800-972-8255) any Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Contact Glink and Tamkin through the Web site www.thinkglink.com.

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