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While established trees may be a draw when house shopping, they can also cause damage to your property. Regular tree maintenance isn’t typically covered by home insurance, but damage from trees that occurs during a storm or other covered peril may be eligible for coverage. Our insurance editorial team breaks down the ins and outs of tree removal coverage to help you manage your property’s green space.
- Home insurance may cover tree debris removal in some scenarios, such as after a windstorm or ice storm, but only up to your policy's coverage limits.
- Your policy likely won't pay to remove a dead, rotted, overgrown or potentially-damaging tree from your property.
- If one of your trees falls onto a neighbor's home, the neighbor's insurance will likely respond.
How can trees damage my property?
While having trees on your property can be aesthetically pleasing, trees do come with maintenance costs and can even cause damage to the home in a number of ways, including:
- Damage to roofs: Tree limbs that overhang your home can be knocked down during storms, damaging your roof and even falling into your house.
- Damage to siding: Limbs can also blow into your siding or repeatedly rub against your home and cause scratching or deeper damage.
- Interior water damage: If a tree limb or an entire tree has fallen onto or against your house during a storm, you may have rain coming inside, which can cause interior water damage.
- Damage to service lines: The roots of your trees can grow into service lines, like your water or gas lines, and cause damage.
- Blocked driveways: If a tree falls across your driveway, you may need to have it removed to get your vehicles out.
When does homeowners insurance cover tree removal?
Home insurance covers tree damage and tree removal in certain scenarios. Generally, if a tree or limb falls onto your home, onto a detached structure like a garage or shed, or is blocking your driveway, your policy could cover the removal, up to your limit. However, the reason that the tree falls is important. Removal may be covered if a tree falls under the following scenarios, but only if it falls on your home, an outbuilding or your driveway:
- Hail storms
- Under the weight of ice or snow
- Lightning and the resulting fire
- Other covered perils listed in your policy
Keep in mind, though, that all policies are different. You may want to talk to your agent about the specifics of your policy to better understand what’s covered.
When does homeowners insurance not cover tree removal?
Not all tree removal scenarios are covered by standard home insurance. Your home insurance company could deny removal coverage if a tree falls in the following situations:
- During a flood
- During an earthquake
- If the tree is dead
- If the tree is rotted
- If the tree is not well maintained
You may be wondering if homeowners insurance covers dead trees or preventative tree removal. Most often, the answer is no. These scenarios are considered maintenance and are part of the cost of having trees on your property. If a tree is dead or needs to be removed as a preventative measure, your home insurance is not likely to pay.
Will my home policy cover tree damage that occurs to my neighbor’s house?
Not usually. If a tree on your lot falls onto your neighbor’s home due to a covered peril, your neighbor’s home insurance policy is generally going to pay for the damages. Your home policy doesn’t cover damage to your neighbor’s house, regardless of whose tree falls.
The only way that your policy may kick in is if you are found liable for the damages. If you know that a tree is dead, rotted or otherwise compromised, and poses a threat to your neighbor’s home, but you do not act to remove the tree, you may be found negligent. Your neighbor could sue you to prove your negligence and ask for the damage to be paid for.
How can I protect my home from tree damage?
When it comes to trees already established on your property, regularly inspecting and maintaining them may be your best course of action for preventing damage or injury. This may include:
- Removing dead or overgrown limbs and trees
- Hiring a professional to help trim around power lines on a routine basis.
- Monitoring and addressing root systems that could interfere with underground pipes or wiring.
When planting new trees on your property, you may want to choose a species that is weather-tolerant for your area and position new trees strategically so they are less likely to interfere with structures or systems already established on the property.
Frequently asked questions
Generally speaking, no. While tree-related debris or damage after a storm may be covered, your insurance policy is not likely to cover preventative tree removal. If a specific tree is posing a threat — say to a utility line or structure on your property — you may look into hiring a tree removal professional before any damage is incurred. In many cases, the cost of removal may be less expensive than your homeowners insurance deductible.
Home insurance is designed to cover sudden and accidental damages. If you have a dead tree on your property, the damage caused by the tree is not necessarily sudden. You know that the tree could fall and cause damage, and it is your responsibility as a homeowner to protect your property. Maintaining the health of the trees on your property, which includes removing any trees that pose a threat to your home, is part of home maintenance.
In general, there are a few signs that a tree could fall on your house and damage it. For starters, if there are trees in your yard that overhang your roof or if there are trees that have branches that hang near to your home, you could be at risk of trees or limbs falling onto your house. Furthermore, any large trees that sit near your home and are large enough to collide with your home if toppled by wind could also pose a risk. The general rule is that you want your yard to be free from trees that sit too close to your home, and the area around your house should be relatively clear from trees to mitigate the risks. If you’re unsure about the health of a tree in your yard, you can talk to a landscaper or tree professional in order to get an evaluation.
It depends on your policy. Many standard policies include $500 to $1,000 in debris removal coverage, although some companies may consider debris removal coverage to be a percentage of your overall loss. For example, if a tree falls and causes $5,000 in damage to your home and you only have five percent debris removal coverage, your policy may pay up to $250 to remove the tree.
You may be able to increase this amount depending on your policy type and carrier. If you have several trees or particularly large trees on your lot, you may want to consider increasing your coverage.