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Simple Tips for Life’s Unpredictable Moments

6 Common Neighborhood Situations that Can Lead to a Liability

Learn how to handle six scenarios that can strain neighborly relations and possibly result in a lawsuit.

When trees topple, swimming pools beckon or dogs bite, relations can sour. Property owners need to know the boundaries that help protect their neighbors from harm, and themselves from financial damages.

1. House Sitting

Scenario: You agree to let your 13-year-old pick up your vacationing neighbor’s newspaper and feed their goldfish.

Unless you’re a professional house sitter, there shouldn’t be liability issues if a problem arises that you or your family member fail to notice. Make sure the neighbors take precautions such as turning off their water and locking the doors of cars left in the garage. Also ask how to contact them while they’re gone.

2. Pets

Scenario: Whenever your dog’s outside, he’s in the fenced-in backyard or on a chain.

No matter where your pet is, even if he’s restrained, you may be held liable for his behavior, whether he bites someone or damages property. Some states hold pet owners strictly liable, while others provide leeway. If kids tend to come into your fenced yard to retrieve their balls, let them know you will do it for them.

3. Hanging Branches

Scenario: You want to prune the neighbor’s tree, which hangs over part of your property.

Consider safety, not just aesthetics. If a branch falls on your kid’s friend in your yard, you may be found negligent, even though it’s not your tree. When it comes to storm-related damages, people often are surprised to learn that generally, their insurance company foots the bill for damages caused by a neighbor’s fallen tree.

4. Parking

Scenario: Your daughter has her learner’s permit and you’re worried she could hit your neighbors’ car on the street.

If someone in your family hits a parked car, you’re responsible. Politely explain to the neighbors that you’ve had close calls and need more room to navigate.

5. Pools

Scenario: Your kids are begging to have their pals over to swim in your pool whenever they want.

Stop! A pool already is a draw—and a potential danger—without opening it to the masses. Even if someone comes onto your property uninvited, you could be liable. Most states and municipalities have laws and ordinances requiring pools to be enclosed by fences and locked gates. Always provide adult supervision.

6. Lending Equipment

Scenario: Your neighbor wants to try out your lawn edger—the one with the supersharp blade.

As long as you don’t conceal mechanical defects and the equipment isn’t required to be registered, you shouldn’t be liable for an accident. You can never rule out a lawsuit from an injured neighbor, though. If you’re uncomfortable lending the equipment, offer to do the edging yourself and let the neighbor clean up.

Learn more about MetLife Auto & Home homeowners insurance.

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