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If a Tree Falls, Who Pays?

posted by TrueNorth Risk Management on Tuesday, August 11, 2020


Every year, storms are responsible for felling countless trees and limbs. Unfortunately, some of those fallen trees damage homes and other property. 

Cleaning up the damage from a storm can be a difficult task, both physically and emotionally, and things can become especially tense when you discover that it's your neighbor's tree that damaged your house. 

To make matters worse, many homeowners are surprised to discover that if a neighbor’s tree falls on their house, it’s usually their own homeowner's policy—not their neighbor’s—that will cover the cost of the damages. What follows are general guidelines for who pays what in various situations, but you should also check your homeowner's policy for coverages and exclusions. 

Your Property, Your Policy

If your property is damaged, you are responsible for the damages. It doesn’t matter if the tree or limb came from your property, your neighbor’s property or even municipal property.

Keep in mind that a windstorm isn’t anyone’s fault; it’s an act of nature. If a tree does damage your property during a windstorm, your policy should cover the damages. After all, that’s why you purchased a homeowner's policy—to protect yourself against unforeseen losses like a tree damaging your house. 

Their Property, Their Policy

It might seem unfair that if it’s your neighbor’s tree that damages your home, you should have to pay. Fortunately for you, that standard applies both ways. If a storm rolls through and your tree falls and damages your neighbor’s house, his or her insurance should cover the damages.

Other Structures

If the tree doesn’t damage your house but instead damages your fence, are you still covered? Generally, you are.

Most homeowner's policies distinguish between two different kinds of structures on your property. The “dwelling” refers to your house and any attached structures (like an attached garage), as well as any fixtures attached to your house. "Other structures," including detached garages, sheds, fences or gazebos, are also insured, but typically only for 10% of the coverage on your dwelling.

Vehicles

If, in the aftermath of a storm, you discover that a tree has fallen on your car, your homeowner's policy doesn’t apply. Instead, you should look to your auto policy.

If you have comprehensive coverage on your vehicle, your auto insurance carrier should pay for the damages, after you pay your deductible. The same rule would apply to a guest’s car. Hopefully, he or she took out comprehensive coverage, too.

Removal and Cleanup

What if the tree fell but didn’t hit anything? Would you be covered for removal costs?

If the fallen tree blocks a path to your front door or driveway, then many homeowner's policies would pay for removal, subject to a smaller limit  (i.e., $1000).

If the tree simply falls in the middle of your yard, your policy likely wouldn’t cover it. Unless the fallen tree damaged insured property, there is likely no coverage or very limited coverage. 

Replacement

Coverage for replacing fallen trees or landscaping in general is not typical.

Most policies offer limited coverage for trees that have fallen due to fire, lightning, explosion, theft, vandalism, malicious mischief or aircraft. Amounts and exclusions will vary, so it’s important to read your policy and work with your claims adjuster.

TrueNorth has you covered

Hopefully, your trees grow and endure. If they fall, it’s important to know that you’re covered.  As always, TrueNorth is happy to assist you by providing comprehensive insurance and financial solutions for both your home and business.  Visit www.iTrueNorth.com or call (319) 739-1277 for an insurance quote to help safeguard the things that matter most to you.  

This publication has been prepared by TrueNorth Companies, L.C. and is intended for informational purposes only. Transmission of this publication is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, a client relationship with TrueNorth Companies, L.C. This publication does not constitute any type of representation or warranty, and does not constitute, and should not be relied upon as, legal advice. This publication is not a contract and does not amend, modify or change any insurance policy you may have with an insurance carrier.© 2020 TrueNorth Companies, L.C. All rights reserved.

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