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Tree damage and insurance coverage

March 7, 2016
Home insurance almost always covers tree damage to an insured structure.

On a night filled with wild thunder and raging winds, a tree in your front yard falls onto your roof. Luckily, no one is injured, but the tree has caused considerable damage to your home. Repairing this damage will probably cost thousands of dollars. Will your insurance cover the cost? In almost every case, the answer is yes, but there are a few situations where you might end up paying these expenses yourself.

What home insurance covers

According to the Insurance Information Institute, a typical home insurance policy covers all damage to a home or other insured structure caused by fallen trees or branches. In general, it is irrelevant who owned the tree or branch, since debris can travel great distances to your property in high wind conditions. Your home insurance will also likely cover you for the cost of removing a fallen tree, but usually only if it has hit a piece of insured property.

"A typical home insurance policy covers all damage to a home caused by fallen trees.”

What home insurance does not cover

One thing your policy may not cover is damage caused by negligence. If you had knowledge the fallen tree was in an unhealthy state, your insurance company could be unwilling to cover the damage. The Realty Times explained that property owners are legally obligated to either examine their trees themselves or hire a professional to do so every once in a while. Failing to check up on your trees could be considered negligence.

According to legal advisory website Nolo, some home insurance policies may still cover the cost of damage to your property or a neighbor's even if negligence is involved. Make sure to examine every detail of your policy.

What happens when a neighbor's tree hits your house?

This is where it can get a little messy. In general, when a neighbor's tree hits your house, your home insurance will cover it because it was probably due to an unavoidable event. If, however, you or your insurance company believes your neighbor was negligent, it may be possible for your neighbor's insurance to cover it.

According to Zillow, neighbors who cannot reach a solution on their own often end up entangled in a civil suit. The Realty Times suggested doing everything you can to work it out with your neighbor on your own to avoid an expensive, time-consuming legal battle. If you each agree to pay for half the damage, you may not even need to file an insurance claim, which will help your premium stay low.

Nolo explained that whoever's property a tree trunk rests on is the owner of the tree, no matter how much of the rest of the tree overhangs into the neighbor's yard. If the tree is right on the property line, both property owners own the tree.

Should you always file a claim?

Just because your home insurance policy will cover the damage a tree caused to your home does not necessarily mean you want it to. Filing an insurance claim means your premium could increase and could even lead to your insurance not being renewed the following year. Consider paying for the damages yourself if they are not outlandish and you can afford it. It might be worth avoiding that insurance claim.