Homeowners insurance and tree damage

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Protecting your home from tree damage is an important responsibility that comes with owning a house. Not only can the structure of your home be compromised if a tree falls on it, your possessions inside could also be damaged. Damage caused by fallen trees can be financially devastating, not to mention frustrating and heartbreaking.

In some cases, you may not have any control over a tree falling and landing on your house. But taking measures to keep your trees healthy can help prevent damage before it happens. Understanding the nuances of a standard homeowners insurance policy also helps to ensure you know what is covered and what damage you are responsible for out of pocket.

Does homeowners insurance cover tree damage?

Whether or not a homeowners insurance policy covers tree damage depends on the situation. In order for the damage to be covered, the cause of the tree falling must be due to a covered peril and a covered structure must have been damaged.

The following scenarios are typically covered by homeowners insurance:

  • Storms
  • Hail
  • Ice
  • A fire caused by lightning

Damage caused by a tree may not be covered if it is due to any of the following:

  • Rot
  • Age
  • Flood
  • Earthquake

If a tree falls in your yard but does not damage the home or any other structure on the property, it also may not be covered by insurance.

Does homeowners insurance cover tree removal?

Falling trees do not always hit your home; sometimes they may fall in your yard but not cause any damage. Homeowners insurance typically covers the removal of trees if they have fallen on a covered structure, like your house, or if the tree is blocking an access point. Some situations where tree removal may be covered are:

  • If a tree falls on an insured structure.
  • If a fallen tree is blocking a driveway.
  • If a fallen tree is blocking a handicap-accessible ramp.

Reimbursement for removal is unlikely if an insured structure was not hit (unless it is impeding an access point such as those listed above). There may be a dollar amount limit for tree removal, such as $500, so it is important to read your policy or check with your agent to determine your specific coverage level.

What to do when someone else’s tree damages your property

A standard homeowners insurance policy should cover a tree that falls on your house, regardless of who owns the tree.

In some cases, the insurance company may try to collect the money needed to cover the damage from the neighbor’s insurance company in a process called subrogation, which may also cover the deductible for the homeowner whose property was damaged.

How much to expect from the insurance company

The payout from your insurance company depends on several factors, including what type of property was damaged. If a covered peril causes damage to the house, you may be eligible to receive up to the limit of your policy’s dwelling coverage. You can usually also file a claim for your personal belongings, if they were damaged. Different categories of possessions have individual limits and high-value items may not be covered at all, unless you have added them with a specific rider or endorsement. You can choose to increase these limits, but it will likely cause your homeowners insurance premium to go up.

Once a claims adjuster creates an estimate for each claim category, the insurance company subtracts your policy deductible from the amount you receive. Many homeowners insurance policies also cover living expenses such as hotels if your home is uninhabitable while the damage is repaired.

How to prevent tree damage

It is your responsibility as a homeowner to maintain your trees properly. Damage caused by dead or rotting trees may not be covered by homeowners insurance. Here are a few things you can do to prevent trees from causing damage to structures and property:

  • Regularly trim any trees on the property, especially those with long branches likely to fall and cause damage due to wind, ice or snow.
  • Be on the lookout for dead trees, which can be identified by a year-round lack of leaves or hollow trunks.
  • Look for rot at the base of tree trunks. Warning signs include the presence of mushrooms, as well as cracks or holes at the bottom.
  • Identify and remove trees that are leaning off-center since they may be poised to fall completely.
  • Pay extra attention to trees that overhang your roof, driveway or power lines.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best home insurance company?

Finding the best home insurance company depends on a lot of factors. It is a good idea to compare quotes from some of the top home insurers in the country using criteria like customer service scores, financial strength ratings and average premiums. Not every homeowner has the same needs, so it is smart to look at several options and speak with a licensed insurance professional.

Does homeowners insurance cover diseased tree removal?

Diseased tree removal is generally considered routine maintenance and is not typically covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy. It is your responsibility to track the health of your trees and treat them when needed.

If a falling tree damages my roof, will that be covered by homeowners insurance?

A roof can be expensive to replace, but most standard policies will cover tree damage to a roof if the following perils caused it:

  • Fire or lightning
  • Windstorms and hail
  • Explosions
  • Riots, vandalism or theft
  • Damaged caused by aircraft or vehicles
  • Smoke
  • Volcanic eruptions
  • Falling objects
  • The weight of snow, ice or sleet

In most cases, roof damage from a tree felled by floods or earthquakes is not covered. It is a good idea to purchase a separate policy to cover these perils if you live in an area prone to either. If you are unsure of the specific coverages included in your policy, turn to your agent or insurance company for clarification.

Written by
Lauren Ward
Insurance Contributor
Lauren Ward has nearly 10 years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, and Reviews.com. She covers auto, homeowners, and life insurance, as well other topics in the personal finance industry.
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