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Tribunal finds arborist liable

An arborist has been ordered to pay $1,450 after they were found liable for breach of contract following a dispute with a client

The arborist, known as KT (trading as QUT), was contacted to perform a range of work on a client’s (NP) property. KT provided a written quote of $2,530, which included the removal of three trees from NP’s back boundary.

However, before work commenced, the client sent a text message to the arborist saying the property “needed a good thinning out” and to “do what you think is best as an arborist”, according to evidence presented to the Disputes Tribunal.

The client sent further instruction by text message to “give it [the garden] a good crew cut” and asked the arborist to trim the back and sides of a maple tree in the front of the house.

Consent required

The client accused the arborist of removing 17 trees without consent or authorisation; however, the Dispute Tribunal only found evidence that 11 trees were removed without the client’s authority or consent, in addition to the three included in the quote.

The client also brought a claim that the arborist failed to carry out their work with reasonable care and skill.

“NP says KT cut the hedge too low and pruned her camellia too low, both of which have caused her to lose privacy,” said the Disputes Tribunal judgement.

“She says trees and shrubs were poorly shaped, particularly the maple and robinia behind her house, and that instead of shaping the trees and shrubs, KT has cut the tops off and ‘lopped’ them so that cut branches can be seen. NP also submits that mulch was put on her lawn rather than on the garden as requested, which has caused her lawn to die and meant that she has spent a lot of time moving mulch off the lawn into her garden.”

A lack of care and attention?

The arborist countered by saying the hedge was cut down to the height requested by the client and that the shrubs and hedges were shaped as best as they could be due to their overgrown nature and the fact they hadn’t been shaped before.

Furthermore, the client’s claim that there was too much mulch left on the lawn wasn’t accepted by the Tribunal.

“I am unconvinced that KT did not use reasonable care and skill in emptying the load into the garden,” said the report. “I find he placed the load a reasonable distance back into the garden and, in doing so, prevented as best he could the overflow onto the lawn.”

Furthermore, the Disputes Tribunal dismissed the claim that the arborist’s work failed to meet a high standard.

The final ruling

As a counter claim, the arborist filed a claim for $3,207.85 – $2,530 for the unpaid invoice and legal costs of $677.85.

In judgment, the Tribunal ordered the arborist to pay $1,450 compensation to cover the cost of purchasing and planting 11 replacement trees and for the loss of enjoyment of the trees for a reasonable period from the time they were removed and until replacement trees could be planted.

The Tribunal also ordered the client to pay the invoiced amount of $2,530 but deducted the $1,450 compensation sum from the invoiced amount. The arborist’s claim for legal costs was denied. In total, the client was left with a bill for $1,080, while the arborist was ordered to replace the 11 trees cut down.


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