Everyone loves the beautiful oak tree in the backyard on a sunny, spring afternoon. But what happens when trees become a potential insurance claim? What’s covered? How is it covered? What’s NOT covered? How can I help prevent a claim as a result of a tree? Let’s dig into the root of the issue with a few scenarios.
“My neighbor’s tree fell on my house!”
This is one of the more common scenarios, particularly after a large storm. There’s no straightforward answer, as there are several factors taken into account.
· If the tree was healthy with no signs of needing maintenance, and a tornado decides it looks better decorating your roof, rather than the backyard, then this is considered an Act of God and would most likely fall under your home insurance policy. It’s unfortunate, but events like that are exactly why we have insurance- events out of our control, that result in significant damage.
· This does not apply to the tree that is dead and shows obvious need for maintenance, or clearly needs cut down. In this case, the neighbor could be held liable for damages caused, as they failed to be proactive, and the damage was the result of that negligence.
“Tree roots have grown in to my sewer/water lines!”
On a standard homeowners policy, this is not covered. However, there are a few companies with whom we we write, that offer a service line coverage. Typically, this coverage is very inexpensive and ranges in price, anywhere from $15-30/year, depending on the company. The coverage amount varies as well, but usually provides $10,000-$15,000 in coverage per occurrence, with either a $500 deductible or subject to your standard deductible. This is an excellent coverage as it also covers many more underground risks- electrical lines, water lines, and cable lines that connect your home to a public or private system. It also covers wear and tear, rupture, and arcing. Talk to your agent about adding this valuable coverage to your policy.
“Tree branches have rubbed against my roof and damaged the shingles!”
This is unfortunately something that would most likely not be covered- you are expected to maintain your trees and ensure they do not come in contact with any part of your home. It will save you headaches and an empty pocketbook to be proactive.
So, how can I help prevent issues with my trees/my neighbor’s trees? As touched on in the previous scenario, maintenance and regular inspection of trees on your property, especially mature trees, are the best way to stay ahead of the curve. Having trees trimmed and dead limbs removed will not only decrease the chance of a claim for physical damage, but will also reduce the likelihood of a medical payments claim or liability claim from falling debris/limbs. If your neighbor has a dead tree that may pose a risk to your safety or property, be sure to have this discussion and carefully document dates and the nature of your conversation. In the event that something were to happen, this will help your case on why the damage shouldn’t come from your wallet.
To delve a little bit further, click here to download this informational article with more great examples of how insurance works, and what's covered/not covered, when it comes to trees!
Author: Danielle Fields, Personal Lines Account Manager