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A treehouse can be a fun addition to your backyard, and it will probably earn you some big brownie points with the kids. If you have a large, healthy tree in your yard, a treehouse can seem like a tempting proposition. But you should know that putting in a treehouse is not without its risks, and it may also affect your homeowners insurance coverage.
Before you start construction on your new treetop hangout, it is important to think through potential insurance ramifications to understand where you may be at risk. Specifically, you need to know if your home insurance company offers coverage for treehouses, or if constructing one could lead to issues with your policy renewal.
Does homeowners insurance cover treehouses?
Your homeowners insurance is intended to step in when life presents unexpected losses. It helps you rebuild after a fire or replace belongings stolen by a thief, for example. It offers protections beyond that, as well — ones you may need to rely on if a guest gets injured in your treehouse.
Specifically, the personal liability coverage your policy offers may be able to help you cover a guest’s medical expenses or a resulting lawsuit after a treehouse-related injury. Additionally, the other structures coverage in your policy may help with repairs if the treehouse is damaged in a storm or fire.
All of this depends on your insurance company offering coverage for treehouses, however. Some insurance companies extend protection to treehouses with no exclusions, while others will only do so if you put certain safety measures in place. You should also know that some insurance providers refuse to cover treehouses based on risk presented and may even deny your policy renewal if you put a treehouse on your property.
Long story short, before you start building a treehouse, call your insurance company and ask how your policy might address treehouses. While it might seem perfectly acceptable to just build the treehouse and not inform your insurance provider about it, you might end up regretting that decision. If a treehouse-related incident occurs and your insurance company was unaware of the treehouse, the insurance company may deny your claim.
When are treehouses covered?
Assuming you have some degree of treehouse coverage through your home insurance policy, there are a couple of specific situations in which it can step in to help you with a loss.
Consider one aspect of treehouses and insurance — damage to the actual treehouse. Does homeowners insurance cover tree houses if they get damaged by high winds, fire or a natural disaster? What about damage caused by vandals?
If your homeowners insurance policy can extend to your treehouse, you can rest easy. Per the other structures portion of your policy, the same protections you have for your house should apply to your treehouse up to your policy limit. That is, it should be protected against fire, windstorms, hail, theft, vandalism or any other covered peril listed in your policy. Other structures coverage is generally capped at 10 percent of your dwelling limit, although you may be able to increase the coverage if you need to.
Treehouses are a bit of a unique case in the insurance world, though. Before you assume your home insurance will cover treehouse damage, call your insurance company to confirm.
Liability for injuries is the primary concern associated with treehouses and insurance. The liability coverage portion of your home insurance does two things for you in the event that a guest gets injured on your property. First, it can help to pay for the resulting medical expenses if you are found negligent or liable. Secondly, if the guest decides to sue you for the injury, it can help with court costs and even cover the settlement, up to your policy limits.
If your home policy offers treehouse coverage, you may be able to turn to your liability coverage to help if a guest gets hurt while climbing around in your treehouse or falls from it. If you aren’t found liable for the injuries, your policy’s medical payments coverage may pay.
While your liability coverage and medical payments coverage may help if a guest gets injured in your treehouse, you may need to rely on your health insurance — or your health savings account, if you lack health insurance — if one of your family members gets hurt.
Treehouses vs. trampolines
While the insurance considerations regarding treehouses may cause you to look elsewhere for a form of backyard entertainment, features like a trampoline or swimming pool present similar issues.
Insurance companies consider both treehouses and trampolines attractive nuisances, which means they may attract a child who can be injured on them. In either case, insurance companies may refuse to extend coverage to the trampoline or treehouse — or even refuse to renew the policy if the homeowner puts one on the property.
In fact, trampolines are more commonly excluded from a home insurance policy’s protection. Call your insurance company to see where it stands on both before you decide which one (if any) to put in your yard.
How much does treehouse insurance cost?
Technically, treehouse insurance as a standalone policy does not exist. But your home insurance may be able to offer coverage to your new backyard addition under your other structures, liability and medical payments limits.
When you shop for insurance, you should expect a treehouse to make your home insurance costs go up, but that may not happen in every case. Not all insurance companies increase rates after a treehouse is added to a property, but some do as a way to cover the added risk that comes with the elevated hangout. If you need to increase your other structures, liability or medical payments coverage to account for the added risk, though, you’ll likely pay more. Ask your insurance provider if you would pay more for your policy if you put a treehouse in your yard so you can weigh the potential benefits versus the costs.
Additionally, if you need your policy to pay for damage to the treehouse, be prepared to pay your deductible. Fortunately, the deductible does not apply to liability or medical payments claims, so you should not need to cover anything out-of-pocket for treehouse-related injuries any guest sustains.
How can you build a treehouse that is safe?
Keeping safety considerations top of mind is a best practice if you are thinking about adding a treehouse to your property.
If you do have a treehouse, you may want to add a few safety features to reduce the risks associated with it, such as:
- Cameras: If you build a treehouse, adding a camera or two may be a good idea. This can help you look out for potential safety hazards and eliminate liability in case of an accident. Cameras may also help you monitor the treehouse while you are away and can be a great tool in the event of a burglary.
- Lighting: Another way to make a treehouse safer is to add lighting. This may help deter crime and reduce the risk of falls. If your treehouse is going to be in use all hours of the day and night, you may want to consider solar-powered lights.
- Railings: Installing railings on a treehouse can help prevent falls. You can use railings inside and out and may also want to consider a railing along the ramp or ladder. While it will not help with liability, railings may help prevent a child from falling or getting hurt.
- Gates: You can add a gate to the treehouse or around the tree to keep kids safe. This may also help reduce liability if a child tries to climb up to the treehouse.
- Safety locks: Safety locks on the doors and windows of a treehouse can deter intruders and help keep the treehouse safe and secure.
- Weather guards: If you live in an area that deals with a lot of rain, snow and ice, you may want to consider adding weather guards to the roof and walls of your treehouse. This will help keep the treehouse protected from severe weather and prevent leaks and water damage.
It may also be beneficial to talk with your local insurance agent about your treehouse plans. Your agent may be able to suggest a few ways to protect your treehouse and reduce liability and homeowners insurance costs.