Homeowners Insurance and Tree Damage


Even the most basic homeowner’s insurance policy covers wind damage to your home, but what about the damage caused by a tree blown over by that wind? What if the offending tree that bashed a hole in your roof belonged to the next-door neighbor? Whose insurance covers that claim? Who pays to clean up the mess? And, will your homeowners insurance pay to replace your tree?  Lots of good questions. Let’s sort
out the answers.

Your homeowner’s insurance will pay for any damage a toppled tree or tree limb caused to your home, its contents and any other covered structure such as a garage or fence up to the limits of your policy, less any deductible. That’s straightforward enough.

It gets a little murkier when it’s a neighbor’s tree causing the damage. If the tree was healthy, most experts recommend filing a claim with your own insurance company. However, if it can be shown that the neighbor’s tree was diseased, dead or poorly cared for, then your insurer may try to collect from your neighbor’s insurer through the subrogation process. If your insurer is successful, your deductible will be reimbursed. Before it gets to that point, talk to your neighbors about any potentially dangerous trees on
their property. If they ignore your polite advice, send a certified letter and take a few pictures.  It will help
facilitate the subrogation process in the event the neighbor’s tree ultimately falls on your home. Keep in mind that turn-about is fair play here. You need to attend to the health and well-being of any trees in your yard since your damage claim could be denied, or your insurer subrogated,  if negligence can be proven.

How about clean up? Most policies cover tree debris removal caused by wind only if the debris actually causes damage to a covered structure. Some policies will remove the tree if it blocks a driveway. Even if your policy does cover debris removal, it’s probably capped somewhere between $500 and $1,000.

Now let’s suppose that it was your tree that fell on your house and you’d like to replace it. Will your homeowners policy pay for a new tree? Probably not. Standard homeowners insurance typically exclude damage done to trees, shrubs, lawns and other landscaping by wind or ice. If you’re concerned, you can always buy additional coverage.

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