When a Tree Falls on Your Property - Home Insurance
Trees create many awkward situations in home insurance:
If a neighbor's tree falls somewhere on your property, and you both have home insurance, what happens.
Whether or not you're covered depends on the why and where the tree fell. And with 5% of homeowners filing at least one claim every year, you need to know what to do if you have to deal with a fallen tree. There are many scenarios:
1. Your tree falls on your home or any other structure during a storm
The national average for repairs after a storm is $7,296. The low end for damages may only be a few hundred while the high end can go to the tens of thousands. Wind damage is also the most frequent homeowners claim at roughly 25 percent of all claims.
With any storm, debris removal comes with the cost of damages. If your tree falls on any roofed structure and causes damage to your property, then you'll be covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Insurance carriers usually put a limit on debris removal of $500, $1,000, or $2,000 per occurrence. Check your policy details for your exact coverage limit.
2. Your tree falls in your driveway
As you cannot use your driveway and since the tree may have damaged the driveway, homeowners insurance would cover its removal (in most states). However, check your deductible. You don't want to file a $1,200 claim with a $1,000 deductible.
3. A tree falls on your car
Ouch. Your homeowners insurance would not cover it. Your auto insurance policy would provide coverage if you have comprehensive or other-than-collision coverage on the car.
4. Your tree fell because of rot
Homeowners insurance companies are a big fan of responsible homeowners. Any time damage happens because the homeowner ignored a problem, it gets classified as negligence. And when that happens, they most likely won't cover costs. If you see a tree on your lot or your neighbor's lot that could have a problem, exercise some preventative maintenance to restore the tree or remove the tree before damage occurs. Supporting the tree with cables is risky because if the cables break in a storm, the insurance company will say you were negligent in not removing the tree (given you put the wires up, you knew it had issues).
5. Your tree decides to fall into the street
Either you or the city would be responsible for cleaning it up, depending on local laws in your county.
6. Your tree falls into your yard
While annoying, unfortunately, cleaning it up is on you. Homeowners insurance generally doesn't cover trees falling over in your yard. They have to damage a structure for coverage to kick in. Some policies do, however, offer coverage for debris removal assistance.
7. Your tree fell because of other causes
If there were a riot, car accident, or fire that caused the tree to fall, then it would be classified under that peril and covered. On the other hand, if a tree fell over because of ground movement and damaged your house, it could be excluded if the ground movement is an exclusion on your policy.
8. Your pesky neighbor's tree fell into your yard
Where the tree lands will determine responsibility, so if the tree falls in your yard and it was healthy, you're responsible.
If your neighbor was negligent, then their insurance could be responsible. (e.g., if their tree was rotting months ago, it should have been taken down, but they refused to do so)
9. Your pesky neighbor's tree hit your house
You're covered. Months of trying to avoid eye contact may follow. In some cases, your insurance company will have your neighbor's homeowners insurance pay for any damages/removal through subrogation. If that happens, you can expect to recover your deductible.
How Much Coverage Will My Policy Provide?
Again, this varies from policy to policy. Generally speaking, the limit per tree is $500 for removal. Some policies limit the amount you can claim per event. For example, if your policy restricts your claim total to $1,000 for tree removal, and it cost $500 to remove each tree, and 4 of them fell, then you'd have to pay the extra $1,000 out of pocket.
Will My Insurer Buy New Trees?
Trees and other shrubs add value to your home. In some cases, it can add between 5% - 10% more value. That's $15,000 - $30,000 on a $300,000 home. Wanting to replace them makes sense. Many policies have limits on trees and shrubs, while some offer no coverage at all. Read your policy documents to see what coverage you have.
Keep in mind that if you sell plants as a business, then you would need to consult your business insurance for filing claims and getting replacements, not your personal homeowners policy.
Why Your Deductible Matters
The most common deductibles on a homeowners insurance policy are between $500 and $1,000. The average cost of tree removal can vary between $150 - $1,500 per tree. If it only costs $350 to remove the tree, then filing a claim would not be in your best interest. Some home insurance policies have a $0 deductible specifically for the removal of fallen trees. Read your policy.
At your service,