Learn how and when your insurance covers damage from fallen trees, limbs, and branches
Trees are a great addition to any yard and provide shade and natural beauty to a home. But in the right weather conditions, even the biggest, most beautiful trees can be made into a destructive force.
We have insurance to help cover damage from many of the curveballs Mother Nature throws at us, but what happens when that curveball is a limb, or worse, an entire tree? Does homeowners insurance cover fallen trees and the damage that ensues? Today, we'll take a look at these questions and more - read on!
How does homeowners insurance cover fallen trees and limbs? Answers to common questions
Whether the weather simply breaks off a few limbs or uproots an entire tree, it's important to know how and when your home, property, or homeowners insurance policy
provides coverage for the damage that follows. Let's take a look at some common questions about that topic!
Does homeowners insurance cover damage from fallen trees?
The answer to this question depends on a number of factors:
What caused the tree to fall?
In order for your insurance to cover the damage, the tree must have been dislodged by a peril your policy includes. In insurance terms, a “peril” is an event, like a fire or a windstorm, that threatens to damage your home or your personal belongings. While different carriers and policies may cover different perils, they will typically include most of the common ways a tree or limb could fall or otherwise damage property. This could be wind from something like a strong storm or hurricane
, but could also include things like lightning, explosions, vandalism, and so on.
How is the damaged structure insured?
Another important consideration has to do with how the various structures on your property are covered. Remember, not every structure or building on your property is necessarily covered the same way. For example, your house may be insured against certain perils that your tool shed is not. The specific perils a structure is insured against depends on how the structures are classified, and whether or not they are considered to be part of dwelling (the house), an "other structure," or an "outbuilding."
Both "other structures" and "outbuildings" are terms that refer to property other than the dwelling itself (your house). Other structures might be insured against some of the same perils as your dwelling, but might require an additional premium for "other structure" coverage. Outbuildings might be required to be scheduled separately, and may not have the same perils covered.
In any case, when determining whether or not your policy will pay for damages to a structure from a falling tree, it's necessary to double check your policy to find out how a specific structure is classified and what perils it is protected against. It's also important to make note of your deductible as it will apply to these sorts of losses.
Was the tree in poor shape prior to the incident?
If a nice, healthy tree is blown over by a storm and damages your insured property, it is likely to be covered. However, if you have a tree that has been dead for years, and could have fallen over at almost any moment, such an event may not be covered.
This is because home insurance doesn't cover damages that are a result of issues surrounding maintenance, or lack thereof. That's why it is important to always trim trees, remove dead limbs, and make sure that dead trees are safely removed if they could potentially damage property.
Does homeowners insurance cover fallen tree or debris removal?
Again, the answer to this question depends on many of the same factors outlined above. In other words, your insurance will usually pay for the removal of a fallen tree, or other debris removal, if said debris is associated with a covered peril.
For example, if a windstorm knocks a tree over and it damages your roof, your insurance could pay to have the resulting debris removed, up to the limits outlined in your policy (which can be found on your declarations page).
On the other hand, if a tree falls and damages property that is not covered by your insurance policy, or if the tree falls over due to some event that is not considered a covered peril, your insurance would not cover debris removal.
Similarly, tree removal is not usually covered if the tree falls and manages not to land on or damage a structure at all. However, there are expanded coverage endorsements available that can help cover the cost of such a scenario, provided the tree is knocked over by a covered peril (more on that below).
What if a tree falls and doesn't damage a structure? Does homeowners insurance pay to replace trees and shrubs?
We've spent a lot of time discussing when insurance does and does not cover property damage from fallen trees and limbs, but what about the tree itself? What if a tree falls, and nothing is around for it to damage? Does homeowners insurance cover your greenery?
Once again, the answer to this question depends greatly on your provider and the policy you have with them. It is possible for some basic policies to cover trees, shrubs, and grass, but you often need to expand your coverage with an endorsement.
It is also important to keep in mind that such an endorsement does not necessarily include the same perils as your basic dwelling policy. For example, your basic policy might include lightning, fire, and windstorms, but the endorsement may not include windstorms in the coverage for trees, shrubs, and grass.
Furthermore, such endorsements don't necessarily cover every tree on your property. Instead, they define a limited area and provide coverage only to the trees and shrubs within it. For example, it might cover trees and shrubs within a particular distance from the dwelling, like 200 feet.
Finally, just as there are coverage limits for property, there will be coverage limits for your trees and shrubs. Most of the time, this limit is something like 5% of the dwelling coverage, with no more than $750 paid towards any single tree or shrub, including removal.
What if my neighbor's tree damages my property?
Even if our neighbors do their best to keep their trees trimmed and maintained, nobody has the ability to control which direction the wind blows. If the whipping winds of a severe storm are strong enough, your neighbor's tree could easily find its way into your yard - or onto your house.
In more extreme cases, violent winds like those found in a tornado
can potentially send limbs and branches soaring across the neighborhood, making it virtually impossible to tell which tree (or yard) it came from.
Fortunately, as long as your property is covered for things like windstorms, falling objects, and or hurricanes, your insurance should cover the damage, regardless of whether the limb came from the next house or the next town over.
In some cases, your insurance provider may attempt to collect payment from your neighbor's provider in a process called subrogation. However, this is fairly uncommon, and isn't often pursued unless neglect, or a history of neglect, can be shown on the part of the neighbor.
Does homeowners insurance cover fallen tree damage to my car?
If a tree is blown over onto your car, or if a limb breaks off and smashes your windshield
, your homeowners insurance will not cover the damage. However, your auto insurance can, provided you have the proper auto insurance policy. In this particular situation, a comprehensive auto insurance
(or "other than collision" insurance) policy could do the trick.
The importance of trimming trees and maintenance
Although your home or property insurance can provide coverage for a number of scenarios involving a fallen tree, it is still important to take preventative measures by keeping trees trimmed and in good shape.
You certainly can't control the weather, or predict when a gust is going to knock something loose. However, a tree that has been dead and rotting for 10 years is an accident waiting to happen.
Whether you have dead trees on your property, or just trees with a few limbs that need to be trimmed, it's important to take care of it before the next storm.
. Remove dead limbs from otherwise healthy trees, and trim limbs back away from your roof at least ten feet. Not only will this help prevent damage to your home during a storm, it can help create a defensible space against wildfires.
Remove dead trees
. Unfortunately, even the largest, most magnificent trees die eventually. Whether they suffer irreparable damage from a drought, a freeze, or simply reach the end of their lifecycle, a dead tree can present serious dangers if left unattended.
If you have a tree in your yard that has died, don't wait until the next major storm to think about having it professionally removed. Even if it manages not to fall and damage your property, they can be a hazard to you and your family.
Plan ahead when planting.
Planting a tree the proper distance from your home is important for a number of reasons. Apart from the hazards we've discussed in this blog, planting a tree at least 15 to 20 feet away from your home also prevents the root structure from potentially disrupting your foundation
. Last but not least, it can go a long way to potentially preventing damage should your house find itself in the path of a wildfire
As you can see, your home insurance absolutely can pay to repair damage from a fallen tree or limb, but the specifics may vary based on your policy and provider. If you're looking into whether or not your
home insurance policy will help cover damage from a fallen tree, make sure to check your policy and declarations page for specific details and coverage limits. If you have questions or concerns about your coverage, never hesitate to reach out to your insurance agent!
To learn more about Property Insurance from Germania Insurance, request a quote online or reach out to one of our Authorized Agents today!