Published: July 2014
Picture this: It's late and you've just gotten into bed. A storm's raging outside, the wind's howling around the house and you can hear the rain pounding on the roof. But you feel cozy and secure inside your nice, warm home.
However, just as you're falling asleep, you hear a loud "crack" and a deafening crash. Suddenly, the noise of the storm is much louder. With a sinking heart, you climb out of bed and go to the attic to investigate. . . only to find a huge tree limb in the middle of your attic. Worse: Driving rain is coming in through a gaping hole in the roof, and water's already trickling along the walls to the floor. And when you go outside to see what's happened, you see the decades-old oak tree next to your house has succumbed to the wind.
Hopefully, you'll never have to deal with a situation like this. But if you do, can you file a claim with your homeowners insurance company? If so, what costs might be covered and what will you likely have to pay for yourself? Read on for some frequently asked questions about trees and insurance.
A: The answer to this question is, "It depends." A homeowners insurance policy typically protects your home against specific causes of loss, known as perils. These perils are generally sudden and accidental in nature, such as fire, with a few exceptions, such as theft—but a cause of loss that is attributed to some negligence or could be prevented through proper maintenance typically isn't covered.
So, when thinking about insurance coverage as it relates to a tree falling on a house, the situation that caused the tree to fall is important. If the tree was otherwise healthy and a windstorm knocked it down, as described above, then typically, a homeowners insurance policy would help to cover the damage. But, if the tree was rotting, and ready to fall down anyway, then your homeowners policy may not cover the damage.
A: If a tree falls down and causes no damage, meaning your house doesn't need any repairs, your homeowners insurance policy typically will not help to cover the tree itself. So, if you need the tree to be removed, you'll most likely have to pay for it yourself.
A: If, as described above, the reason the tree fell was sudden and accidental—such as a storm knocking down a healthy tree—it does not matter whose tree hits your house; your own homeowners insurance policy would help cover the damage to your home.
A: As in the question above, you're typically only considered responsible if neglect on your part was a contributing factor to the tree's demise. If not—if a storm knocked your healthy tree onto your neighbor's house—your neighbor will have to file a claim with his or her own insurance.
A: This depends on where you live. Most municipalities cover the costs of removing the tree from the street, but in many cases, if a part of the tree is still on your property, you would have to cover the removal costs. Check with your town, city or county for its policy.
A: Many homeowners insurance policies do not cover damage caused to the landscaping by a fallen tree, if there is no damage to a building.
Incurring major damage to your home is always stressful, but if your home is damaged, your homeowners insurance is there to help.