Does Insurance Cover if a Tree Falls on Your House (Even if No One Is Around to Hear It)?
You hear a crack, followed by a crash, and the next thing you know, a tree or branch has fallen. What do you do now?
Damaged or aging trees can damage surrounding properties. Insurance sometimes covers tree-related damage, but coverage may depend on the circumstances. Liability can get more confusing if a tree damages neighboring property.
Whether your homeowners insurance policy covers damage from a falling tree or branch may depend on what caused the tree to fall in the first place. Homeowners policies generally cover damage from named perils, such as vandalism, fires and some weather. On the other hand, policies may exclude coverage for damage related to a homeowner's negligence or certain weather conditions, such as flooding.
If a covered peril damages your tree, causing it to fall on your home, your insurance will likely cover it. Examples of commonly covered causes of damage include:
- High wind
- Severe winter storms
However, some policies won't cover damage if an excluded event causes the tree to fall. For example, many policies don't provide coverage if a flood or earthquake causes a tree to fall on your house. You can sometimes purchase additional policies for these types of events.
Additionally, you may be responsible for damage caused by negligence or poor maintenance. For example, if you've ignored a dead or rotting tree for years and it finally falls down, your insurance probably won't help. You could also be personally responsible if you try to remove a tree without professional help and cause damage to property.
Your homeowners insurance will likely pay for damage to your home or other structures, such as garages, covered by the policy. Cleanup expenses are often included when your home is repaired. However, many policies don't cover the cost of removing downed tree debris that isn't part of a home repair. Occasionally, insurance may cover removal costs if a downed tree is blocking a driveway or sidewalk.
If a tree falls on your car, you may be able to file a claim with your auto insurance company. This type of damage is usually covered if you have comprehensive insurance for your car.
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If a neighbor's tree damages your home due to wind, lightning or another covered peril, your homeowners policy will likely offer coverage. Since unexpected events, such as severe weather, aren't your neighbor's fault, they likely wouldn't be legally responsible for the damage, even though the tree was on their property.
In some circumstances, your neighbor could be responsible for damage caused by their tree. A neighbor may be legally liable if negligence caused the damage. If your neighbor has ignored a dying tree on their property or failed to maintain their trees properly, they could be responsible if the tree falls on your property. They may also be liable if light wind or snow causes an improperly maintained tree to fall on a house.
These rules can vary by location. If you're concerned about a tree on your neighbor's land, you may wish to review local laws. You can also speak with an insurance agent or attorney for additional information.
Caring for your trees and removing dying or unstable trees is an important part of homeownership. You could be financially responsible if a hazardous tree damages your home or a neighboring property.
Unfortunately, your insurance probably won't help you with the cost of maintaining trees or removing trees from your property. Tree care and removal are part of general home maintenance. Regular maintenance is almost always the homeowner's responsibility, and insurance policies exclude coverage for these expenses.
Hiring a licensed arborist or tree care professional can help you care for your trees and keep them in the best condition. You may want to ensure a professional assists with trimming and removal to avoid accidental property damage.
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