Cost & Coverage
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Homeowners insurance reimburses you for losses incurred by your home and personal property if they’re damaged by a peril that’s covered in your policy. Most standard policies insure loss against perils like fire, bad storms, lightning, and malicious acts like vandalism and theft.
Another condition that’s insured by standard policies is coverage against falling objects, including fallen trees, and if a tree lands on your house, your garage, your driveway, or your trampoline, your insurer may reimburse you for the tree’s removal and property replacement or repairs. There are also instances where your home and personal property are covered, but the tree itself isn’t.
|Cause of tree falling||Where tree fell||Is tree removal covered?|
|Windstorm, hail, ice||On the house||Yes|
|Windstorm, hail, ice||On lawn, or empty space||No|
|Fire, lightning||House, lawn, or empty space||Yes|
|Explosion, vandalism||House, lawn, or empty space||Yes|
|Aircraft||House, lawn, or empty space||Yes|
|Rot, age||House, lawn, or empty space||No|
|Flood, earthquake||House, lawn, or empty space||No|
If a bad storm causes a tree to fall on your house or a detached structure on your property, your insurer will generally pay for the tree’s removal, in addition to any damages to your property. Your insurer may also pay to replace the tree if fire, lightning, explosions, riots, vandalism or vehicular damage turn your tree to timber.
Tree removal may also be covered if the fallen tree originated on your neighbor’s property, regardless of what caused it to fall or whether or not it landed on a structure. In most cases, your insurance company will assume responsibility to pay for the removal and damages, but if it’s determined that your neighbor’s tree fell because it was rotted or old, they may go after your neighbor’s insurer.
Simply put, if an excluded peril causes the tree to fall, your insurer won’t pay for the tree removal or home repairs.
The most common exclusions are rot, age, earthquakes, flooding and mudslides. However, flood, earthquake, and mudslide insurance policies may include clauses that pay for tree removal and subsequent repairs.
As highlighted in the chart above, there are also instances when your insurer won’t pay for tree removal unless it hits a structure on your property, even if the peril that caused its collapse is covered in your policy. If the toppling tree was wind-induced, or snow- and ice-induced, and it landed on your lawn (but not your house or garage) your insurer may not pay for its removal.
Your carrier may also refuse to pay for removal or replacement of trees, shrubs, or plants if you run a landscaping or plant nursery out of your house and are using the affected plant life for business purposes. To protect business property on your lawn, you’ll need to add a yard and garden endorsement or rider to your policy.
If you’re big into landscaping and unsure whether or not you have enough coverage, talk to a licensed representative at Policygenius, who can make sure you and your green-thumb are fully protected.
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While tree removal may occasionally be covered, there are limits to how much your insurer will pay out for a claim. Coverage limits vary by insurance company and policy-type, but carriers will generally pay up to 5% of your policy’s dwelling coverage for debris removal on any given claim. That means if your dwelling limit is $300,000, your insurer will pay a maximum of $15,000 to remove trees and other debris from your property.
There also may be a limit to how much your insurer will pay to have individual trees removed — in most cases, that limit hovers between $500 and $1,000 per tree. If your carrier caps tree removal at $500 per tree, and there are three downed trees in your yard with a removal bill of $3,000, that’s potentially $1,500 or more coming out of your pocket, including your deductible.
If you’re filing a debris removal claim for a single tree or small damage amount, you’ll want to consider your deductible, which is the amount you pay out of pocket before your carrier pays for the rest.
If your deductible is $500, and that fallen tree in your yard costs $700 to remove, then your insurer would only cover the remaining $200 of the claim after you meet your deductible. You may find it isn’t worth your while to file a tree removal claim if the claim amount barely meets your deductible, as filing frequent claims may increase your rates.
Your insurer may offer additional coverage options, or endorsements, that increase your policy’s tree removal coverage limits and provide added removal coverage.
Some companies offer added coverage against certain perils, so if wind or weight of snow and ice cause a tree to fall down on your lawn, the added coverage would pay for the tree’s removal.
Debris removal endorsements may also increase or possibly remove the removal and per-tree limitations that are common in a standard policy. That means instead of only having 5% of your dwelling coverage to use for tree removal, you may be able to use up to 10%; instead of a $500 per-tree removal limit, the endorsement may increase that limit to $1,000 or higher.
A yard and garden endorsement provides you coverage in a couple different ways: it pays for the replacement of fallen trees and damaged landscaping, something that standard insurers only offer to replace if the damage was because of lightning, fire, vandalism, or theft; it also covers tree and plant removal and replacement if they’re being used for business purposes.
If you live in an area prone to flooding, earthquakes, or mudslides, you’ll need separate flood, earthquake, and mudslide insurance to protect your home and belongings. These catastrophes also have a penchant for knocking down trees, so you’ll want to be sure your insurer has adequate coverage.
Standard flood policies purchased through the NFIP, for example, typically doesn’t cover debris removal. However, you may be able to buy excess flood insurance or a flood insurance endorsement through a private insurer to supplement that gap in coverage.
There are a number of ways you can limit the incidence of fallen trees and branches and reduce the potential hazards they pose. One way is to simply prune, or cut branches off of a tree that appear dead. If the entire tree appears to be dead, or you have reason to suspect a termite or pest problem on your property, contact a local arborist to come by for an inspection. Arborists are trained to detect the health of trees, and they’ll indicate which branches, or trees (if any) need to come down, and should be able to suggest a trimming and removal service.
If you discover that your adjacent neighbor has a rotted and potentially hazardous tree, talk to them about potentially removing it from their property.
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