When summer storms roll through, a lot of questions arise about what your policy will cover if a tree falls.
There are two main situations we get questions about: if a tree falls on your property, and if a tree falls on someone else’s property. Unfortunately, there isn’t one answer to both of those questions, so I’ll answer each separately.
Please keep in mind that all insurance policies are different. So while these answers are the norm, the coverage on your policy may be different.
My tree fell in my yard, will my policy pay to remove it?
Most home policies cover the reasonable cost to get a tree off a covered structure. The amount they’ll pay is still subject to applicable policy limits.
A large tree from your property falls on your home during a storm. Most policies will cover the reasonable cost to get the tree removed from the house and onto the ground. They’ll usually also pay up to the policy limit to get the tree cut and hauled away.
You might be thinking, “But what if the cost to remove the debris is $3,000 and my policy limit is only $500?” Unfortunately, the policy limit of $500 would apply and you’d have to pay the rest out of pocket.
BUT WAIT! What if you have trees down in your yard, but none hit a covered structure?
Whether or not your insurance will cover the cost to remove the fallen trees will depend on your policy. Most home policies don’t provide coverage to remove trees that fall on the ground. If the tree isn’t on a covered structure, like your house or shed, coverage won’t kick in.
So what’s the moral of the story?
If you live on a property with a lot of trees, check your policy to determine what type of tree coverage you have.
Most policies limit the dollar amount of debris removal coverage for trees. Your policy often won’t reimburse you to replace trees that fall due to wind. There may be endorsements available to add more coverage for tree damage. Contact your agent to see if you need extra coverage.
My tree fell on my neighbor’s property (house, fence, car, etc.), will by policy pay for the damage?
Your policy may only cover the damage if you’re found liable. Generally speaking, you are not liable for the damage unless you knew there was a problem before it fell.
Trees fall when the wind blows, or when there is heavy snow sitting on the branches. If the tree was healthy before it fell, there is no negligence on the part of the homeowner. That means the homeowner isn’t responsible for the damage caused when the tree fell.
If a tree is diseased or dead, ordinary weather conditions (and sometimes just gravity) can bring the tree down. When a tree owner is aware of the danger posed by a diseased tree, they might be liable for damages caused if it falls.
If you’re concerned about the health of a neighbor’s tree, you can send a certified letter to notify them. If you tell them their tree might be dead or dying, you could prove negligence if it damages your property. Save a copy of the letter along with the certified mailing receipt in case something happens. You may even want to document the matter further with photographs.
Most people are good neighbors and will address the situation if you mention it to them. To protect yourself and your property, it’s prudent to follow-up with a documented request. If you can prove that the owner was aware of the situation, there’s a better chance their home policy will cover the damage.
Here are some tips for preventing tree damage:
- When planting trees, place them a reasonable distance away from the home.
- If a dead or damaged tree is within falling range of a house, consider removing or relocating it.
- At the turn of each season, inspect your trees for any damage or decay. Being vigilant could help prevent a potential claim.
- Trim any branches that hang over a covered structure (fence, shed, house, etc.) to prevent damage if they fall.
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