If a tree falls on your neighbor’s property, your neighbor’s insurance company is usually responsible for the damages. However, if the tree was rotting or clearly damaged, your neighbor could try to prove you were negligent by not removing it. In that case, your insurance company might have to pay.
In the event that your tree topples onto your neighbor’s property as a result of a storm or another insured event, the damage to their property or personal possessions is covered by their house insurance.
Liability coverage is the component of a house insurance policy that would typically cover the costs of repairs.
The coverage for these disasters is often capped at 5 percent of the insured value of the house’s structure. Insurers typically impose a limit on the coverage provided for individual trees, shrubs, or plants.
What is Covered by Homeowners Insurance for Tree Damage?
Homeowners insurance typically covers damage caused by certain covered perils, which are events listed in your policy. Common covered perils include wind, hail, lightning, and fire. If a healthy tree falls on your neighbor’s house due to one of these covered perils, your insurance should cover the damage to their property, minus your deductible.
However, coverage doesn’t extend to all tree-related mishaps. Let’s see what else is included:
Different Types of Tree Disasters Covered:
- Falling branches: Similar to treefalls, coverage depends on the cause. If a storm brings down a branch, it’s likely covered. However, if a neglected, diseased branch falls, it might not be.
- Tree removal: In some cases, insurance may cover the cost of removing a fallen tree, especially if it poses a safety hazard or blocks access. Check your policy details for specifics.
Damage to Trees and Shrubs:
While uncommon, some policies offer limited coverage for damage to healthy trees and shrubs caused by covered perils.
Who is Liable for Tree Damage to a Neighbor’s Property?
Determining liability, and consequently whose insurance applies, hinges on the reason for the tree falling.
Insurance Coverage for Damages:
- Act of nature: If a healthy tree falls on your neighbor’s house due to an unforeseen event like a storm, their homeowner’s insurance should cover the repairs.
- Negligence: If you knew the tree was diseased or dying and failed to take reasonable action, you could be liable for the damage. Your insurance might cover it under liability protection, but your rates could increase.
Factors That May Affect Liability:
- Prior knowledge of tree condition: Did you have any professional evaluations indicating the tree’s instability?
- Maintenance efforts: Did you take proper care of the tree, including pruning and trimming?
- Local ordinances: Are there any tree maintenance regulations in your area that you might have violated?
Preventing Tree Damage
Proactive measures can significantly reduce the risk of tree-related mishaps and potential insurance claims:
- Regular inspections: Have a qualified arborist assess your trees’ health and stability periodically.
- Proper maintenance: Prune and trim trees regularly to remove dead or diseased branches and improve overall health.
- Address concerns promptly: Don’t ignore signs of potential problems like cracks, leaning, or disease.
By understanding your insurance coverage, potential liability situations, and preventive measures, you can ensure your trees don’t become a source of property damage and insurance headaches for you or your neighbors.