If a tree falls in the woods- well, let's face it, nobody really cares! BUT, if a tree falls in your yard, on your house, on your garage or smashes your fence, well now that's another story! And, that's when the insurance questions begin. Will your insurance pay to remove the tree? Will they pay to replace it? What if it was your neighbor's tree? What if you have several downed trees, like many did after "the storm" of August 2015?
Let's take these questions one at a time, but first, remember that your home insurance is designed to protect your home, the structure, not to protect your trees. Also keep in mind that with any covered loss, your deductible always applies. So now, back to the first question...
"Will your insurance pay to remove the tree?" - This will depend on what the tree landed on and whether your policy has any extra endorsements. If the tree fell on a covered structure (like the picture above) the insurance company would pay to have the tree removed from the structure. However, the cost to remove the tree debris from the property (note the 2nd photo) would be limited. Under a standard homeowners policy, you would receive $500 to remove the tree debris from your property, but only if the tree had fallen on a covered structure (such as your house, garage, fence, etc.). And $500 is the total limit, regardless of the number of trees. Now let's say the tree fell in your yard, it didn't land on any covered structures - then you would need to have your policy endorsed with a "plus" or "extra" endorsement that provides for tree debris removal to extend to your entire property, not just covered structures*. Some companies also increase the coverage amount on these endorsements, up to $1,000 (or even $5,000 if you purchase a "deluxe" type policy) it just depends upon the company. So if the tree fell on your insured garage, you can count on having the tree removed and at least $500 to remove the tree debris. If it fell in your yard, it will depend on whether your policy was endorsed as to whether you would have coverage for the removal. However, even with the extra endorsement, your coverage is limited. In summary, given a situation pictured above, where the tree must be removed to repair the home, the tree removal would be covered by the insurer, but the cost to haul the debris away would come under the $500 limit. If the tree just falls in your yard, you need the extra endorsement for the tree debris removal to be covered, and even then coverage is limited.
(*Why do I keep referring to "covered structures"? Because you may have some structures on your property that are not covered, either by your request or the company's request. In that case the exclusion would be noted on your policy.)
"Will your insurance pay to replace the tree?" - Possibly. It will depend on what caused the tree to fall. Was it knocked over by a car? Was it vandalized? Was it struck by lightning? Did it burn up in a fire? If so, you would be eligible for $500 to replace your tree. However, most likely it was caused by a windstorm and if that's the case, there would be no coverage to replace the tree. The tree coverage is limited to $500 per tree, and only applies if your trees (or shrubs) were damaged by fire, lightning, aircraft, vehicles or vandalism.
"What if it was my neighbor's tree?" - Often people think that if their neighbor's tree fell on their property, they (the neighbors) are responsible to pay to remove the tree and pay for any damage it may have caused. However, unless your neighbor's tree was clearly a danger (i.e. dead, dying or diseased) and the neighbor was aware of this danger and did nothing, they are really not liable for your damages. Don't worry though, your own policy will respond. Even if your neighbor's tree was a liability, it's best to let your company handle the claim as you will get the best coverage from your own policy and you can let the insurance company subrogate against your neighbor if needed. What if their tree fell in your yard, but not on your covered structure, and your policy was not endorsed to include the tree debris removal coverage? Perhaps trying to work out an amical cost share with your neighbor may be the best course.
"What if you have several downed trees due to a major storm?" - The same policy limits noted above would apply, whether it's one tree or ten trees. So you would have $500 coverage for sure it the trees landed on a covered structure. And if you have the extra endorsement, the coverage would be available even if the trees only landed on the ground and the limit may be higher, depending on the endorsement, up to $1,000. Again, remember that your home insurance is designed to protect your home itself, not your trees. While you can get some limited coverage for tree debris removal and tree replacement, you DO have a LIMIT.
So, what's a homeowner with a wooded lot to do? Preventative maintenance is your best protection. Keep the tree limbs trimmed and away from your roof. Perilous looking limbs should be removed and you should check your trees regularly to be sure they are healthy. Any dead, diseased or dying trees should be taken down to protect to your own property and to prevent anyone else from being harmed or another person's property from being damaged. Taking these steps and purchasing the extra endorsement for tree debris removal coverage are your best bets to keeping your home, as well as yourself, well protected!
Until the next time, I'm still yet -