A philosopher may ask, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” We can’t answer that.
But if it falls on your property, it could very well do some damage, whether it happens quietly or not. Worse, your tree could fall on your neighbor’s property…damaging a roof or a car. There are costs involved not only with damage, but also with removal of the tree parts or the stump.
What’s covered by your homeowners insurance and what isn’t?
Well, that depends…
●If a tree falls due to a natural cause such as a thunderstorm or high winds and there is damage to your home, other structures or their contents, and you have proper homeowner’s insure, you’re good to go. Plan on paying your deductible but a good policy should cover the rest, though there is generally a cap of 10% on detached structures. Of course, if the storm is classified as a hurricane, that may trigger a hurricane deductible.
●If your tree falls and damages your neighbor’s property or vice versa, you should also be covered. Whomever had damaged property would make a claim on their policy first and the insurance company may go after the tree owner’s insurance to cover costs. Regardless, when two neighbors are properly insured, the damage should be covered, with the exception of a deductible.
●If your tree falls and damages anything, most Homeowner’s Policies cover the removal of the tree/shrub, often with a cap of $500 or $1,000 per tree.
●Tree replacement that is necessary due to vandalism or lightning are also generally covered (though usually wind and water are excluded without an additional endorsement).
●Car damage is also covered, but it would fall under auto insurance.
It’s NOT Covered.
●If a tree falls and doesn’t damage anything and if it isn’t blocking a driveway or a ramp for the disabled, your Homeowner’s Insurance will probably NOT pay for removal without a specific endorsement for that purpose.
●If a tree falls into the street and doesn’t damage any property, it’s usually the public works department’s problem. Homeowner’s insurance will NOT cover removal from the street or your yard.Your city may cover street removal but will NOT foot the bill for stump/branch removal from your property.
So, basically, if your tree damages almost anything, it’s probably covered. If not, you may on your own unless you add extra coverage. It’s also a good idea to periodically evaluate the health of your trees. If a neighbor reports that the tree was damaged or rotting prior to the event that brought it down, their insurance may try to recoup costs from your insurance policy.
Taking pictures to document your property frequently and to document the loss when it happens is another important step to protect yourself. Having proof of the condition of your trees both prior to and after a claim is made can go a long way when fighting any contradictory claims.
You can’t control the wind and rain, but you can control the types of coverage and additional endorsements on your policy. Go over your Homeowner’s Policy annually with your agent to make certain that you have appropriate coverage. Whether that tree has the sound of a sonic boom or it falls in silence, make sure you can deal with the fallout.