A RINGWOOD resident believes he should not be held liable for damage to his house caused by overhanging trees growing in a council-owned reserve.
Ryan Sharpley has been trying for three years to get Maroondah Council to act on his concerns about falling branches from trees in Mundara Reserve, which backs onto his property.
"They've caused damage to my car, my fence, my roof and, more worryingly, one fell only two metres from my kids' swing set," Mr Sharpley said.
He said because of frequent damage to his property, he had asked the council to clarify who was liable for future damages.
He's been unable to get a clear answer.
In an email dated September 11, seen by the Weekly, a council officer told Mr Sharpley: "The mere fact that council may own the trees doesn't lead to us being liable and a claim being made."
Maroondah CEO Frank Dixon said that if a claim were made, "an investigation into the circumstances . . . is undertaken to determine the elements that have contributed to the loss or damage.
"Determination of liability is a complex process which is undertaken on an individual-case basis, so a predetermined outcome to the question of negligence cannot be made."
Mr Sharpley fears what this would mean if branches were to fall again, despite the fact he has kept a log of incidences and his contact with the council.
"They are council-owned trees in a council-owned reserve. I don't believe I should be liable for any damages. If a tree in my yard fell in my neighbours', I would be expected to pay for it.
"But it doesn't seem to work that way. Their responses are worded as a get-out-of-jail-free card."
The Weekly first reported the situation in August, at which time Mr Sharpley was calling for three trees to be removed, suspecting they were infested with termites. The council responded that arborists had inspected the reserve again and did not find any reasons or faults to warrant further tree removal within the reserve.
In further emails between the council and Mr Sharpley since, seen by the Weekly, an inspection in September revealed "voids in two of the four trees" and that further investigations needed to take place.
Last week, Mr Dixon did not state whether or not any trees had been removed, but he said "the best way for council to determine the response to these concerns is to consider the health of the trees in question".
"Council has done so in this instance".