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Posted 7 February 2014
by Paul Kelly

Whose trees are these anyway?

In the case of Turner -v- Cooper, the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber), “the Tribunal” provided further clarification on who would be responsible for the removal of a tree growing on a homeowner’s pitch.

The case was regarding a tree which had shed several branches and needed to be felled. The Tribunal was asked to determine who was liable for the cost of removing the tree, the park owner or the homeowner on whose pitch the tree was located.

The Tribunal based its decision on the terms of the Written Statement (“the Agreement”) held by the homeowner and the provisions of the Mobile Homes Act 1983, as amended, (“the Act”).

The Tribunal determined that the terms implied into the Agreement by virtue of the Act only obliged the homeowner to maintain their pitch in a clean and tidy condition and that this obligation did not extend to the homeowner being required to remove this particular tree or pay for the cost of its removal. They further stated that it would be unfair to impose any such obligation on the home owner because in this case the park owner owned the tree in question.

The Tribunal noted that the only reference to trees in the terms into the Agreement is the obligation on the park owner to maintain common parts including trees sited on them in a clean and tidy condition. The Tribunal was required to interpret whether this term obliged the park owner to remove the tree or be responsible for the cost of doing so. In its decision the tribunal applied the rule of contra proferentem which means that where there is any doubt about the construction of an agreement, or any part of it, that the least favourable construction will be applied against the person who put forward the agreement. In this instance the Tribunal decided that any ambiguity in the Agreement should be resolved in favour of the homeowner and therefore ruled that the park owner was responsible for the cost of the removal of the tree.

The Tribunal also noted that in their opinion park owners owned the pitches and therefore owned trees on them and could not limit their responsibility for the cost of removing trees by introducing park rules which, based on the Tribunal’s decision regarding ownership of pitches and therefore trees, would be contrary to the effect of Act.

First-tier Tribunals are not bound by other First-tier Tribunal decisions but they can have regard to them so arguments regarding ownership of trees, particularly where they have been planted by the home owner, could be raised in other cases but a tribunal could choose to follow this decision.

If you have any queries about trees on your park then contact the parks team by telephone 01392 207020 or email parks@tozers.co.uk

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About the author

Paul Kelly

Partner

Paul is the managing partner of the firm