While tall trees provide a wonderful canopy, excellent shade and natural beauty, they can also present a huge problem if they fall.
If your neighbor’s tree falls on your house, the rule of thumb is that the insurance policy of the damaged property pays for the repairs. So if your neighbor’s tree ends up on your house or another insured structure on your property, your homeowners policy should cover the loss. And if your tree falls on your neighbor’s house, their insurance policy should respond.
A problem arises, however, when the tree falls and hits nothing. It simply lands across your yard. Most homeowners insurance policies won’t cover the cost to remove the debris if no insured structures are damaged. And the removal of a large tree can be very expensive.
Speaking of expense, your homeowners deductible may become an issue even under a covered event.Typically $500 or $1,000, a deductible is what you assume as your portion of the risk of property ownership. It acts as a sort of incentive for homeowners to take care of their property and avoid loss claims. But when it is your neighbor’s tree that does the damage and you have to absorb the deductible, it can seem unfair — especially since you had very little to do with managing the risk.
What can a homeowner do?
If a tree looks like it might fall or drop large, damaging branches, there are several things you can do to protect your property.
The first step many specialists recommend is good old fashioned communication. Politely ask your neighbor to remove dead limbs and threatening trees. That is a costly endeavor, so don’t be surprised if you get some pushback or a request to share the cost. If your neighbor takes no action, you might have to follow with a more formal, certified letter, possibly even copying your homeowners association or local government.
Many towns hold homeowners responsible for maintaining their landscaping and ensuring it does not cause safety issues. Some cities even have ordinances that require dangerous trees to be removed. Check with your local government about enforcement.
Taking legal action is another possibility when your neighbor refuses to do anything about a threatening tree. An attorney can advise you of your options, especially those falling under complaints of “private nuisance,” which is defined as an interference with a person’s enjoyment and use of land.
One option your lawyer may suggest is mediation. This entails a neutral third party helping the parties resolve their conflict using negotiation and communication tactics. This is a good technique to try before taking your neighbor to court.
After a tree falls
If all your best prevention efforts fail and your neighbor’s tree falls on your property, you should contact your insurance professional right away. Depending on the damage to your house, you might have to seek immediate shelter elsewhere. Ask if your homeowners insurance covers those expenses and how you can exercise the benefits under your policy.
These moves can be complicated when there are children, pets or disabled occupants involved. If there are injuries, you will have an added layer of emergency response. If you’ve thought all these things through ahead of time, it will be easier to react in the moments after an incident.
If there is serious damage to your home, you will be expected to take measures to prevent further losses, such as rain invasion or pest infestation. Your insurance professional can advise you on the steps you should take, based on the requirements in your homeowners policy.
You can also expect to have an adjuster inspect the damage. The adjuster will conduct a thorough review of what needs to be repaired and replaced. That could include everything from roofing materials to beds and personal items, depending on how much of your home was damaged. If a crane is needed to remove a tree from your home, you should talk to your insurance professional before contracting that service. Prices can vary widely, and some homeowners policies put a limit on those costs.
Take dangerous trees seriously. They can be deadly and are very expensive to deal with once they have fallen. If you have a high-value exterior structure like a guest house or swimming pool, check with your insurance professional at your next policy review to make sure it is also insured for damage from a neighbor’s tree.
For more information please contact our personal insurance experts.
This content is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing professional, financial, medical or legal advice. You should contact your licensed professional to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Please refer to your policy contract for any specific information or questions on applicability of coverage.
Please note coverage can not be bound or a claim reported without written acknowledgment from a OneGroup Representative.
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