Sometimes it takes just one good storm to topple what was once a sturdy tree in your yard. And, once the storm passes, you may be wondering whether your homeowners insurance will help pay for the cost or removing the branches or repairing damage if the tree fell on your home.
Whether your homeowners insurance policy includes coverage for fallen trees typically depends on a number of factors, such as what caused the tree to fall and what kind of damage resulted. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about trees and insurance.
Q: DOES HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE COVER DAMAGE CAUSED BY FALLEN TREES ON MY PROPERTY?
A: The answer to this question is, "It depends." A homeowners insurance policy typically protects your home and other structures, such as a fence or shed, against specific causes of loss, known as perils. Covered perils typically include damage caused by wind. So, the situation that caused the tree to fall is important. If the tree was otherwise healthy and toppled due to wind, a typical homeowners insurance policy may help pay to repair damage to your home or other structure on your property, the Insurance Information Institute (III) says.
However, homeowners insurance usually won't cover a loss caused by negligence or a maintenance-related issue. So if the tree was rotting and ready to fall down before the storm, homeowners insurance likely would not cover the damage the tree caused to your home.
Q: WHAT IF THE TREE DOESN'T DAMAGE ANYTHING?
A: If a tree falls down and causes no structural damage, meaning your house doesn't need any repairs, your homeowners insurance policy typically will not cover debris removal, according to the III.
Q: WHAT HAPPENS IF THE TREE WAS ON MY NEIGHBOR'S PROPERTY?
A: If your home is damaged by your neighbor's tree, the III says you'll typically find that your homeowners insurance may help pay to repair the damage to your house (or other structure, if the tree falls on your fence, for example).
Q: AM I RESPONSIBLE IF A TREE FROM MY PROPERTY DAMAGES MY NEIGHBOR'S PROPERTY?
A: You're typically only considered responsible if neglect on your part was a contributing factor to the tree's demise. If not — say a storm knocked your healthy tree onto your neighbor's house — your neighbor will likely have to file a claim through his or her own insurance.
Q: DOES HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE COVER REMOVAL OF TREE DEBRIS?
A. If the tree damaged your home, a homeowners insurance policy may help cover the cost of repairing your house as well as removing the fallen tree branches, the III says. But if the tree fell without causing damage to a structure on your property, you may find that insurance won't cover the cost of removing the debris, according to the III.
It's important to keep in mind that you'll typically have to pay your deductible before your insurance will help pay for a covered loss. Also, coverage limits will apply. Read your policy or check with your agent to learn what type of coverage and how much coverage your policy provides for damage caused by a fallen tree.