When Your Fence Is (and Isn’t) Covered by Your Insurance

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It isn’t part of your home, exactly, but damage to fences around your property are often covered by your homeowners insurance, under its “Other Structures” provisions. As with most questions about insurance, however, the devil can be in the details. As in what caused the damage, the nature and identity of the guilty party, and where exactly the fence is located.

So you’re likely in luck if a storm or neighborhood vandal takes out your fence, for example, but could be less lucky if you ding it when mowing the lawn or take out a fencepost as part of a landscaping project gone wrong. And coverage can be complicated if the fence lies along a property line

Causes aside, there’s also the question of how much fence is damaged, and how badly. Here, there’s a relevant caveat to almost any coverage under your policy. Even if you qualify to make a claim, coverage will probably be capped at a certain percentage--10% is typical-- of the policy’s total coverage. For example, if you have $200,000 of home insurance coverage, the “other structures” coverage will be capped at $20,000, meaning a maximum of $20,000 of damage will be reimbursed by your insurer.

Before we run down the types of fence-killers, and whether you’re covered against each, one overall rule of thumb about coverage: If your home isn’t protected against a threat, your fence won’t be either. For instance, repairs needed because of a flood or earthquake is not covered unless you have specific protection for them in your home insurance policy. Ditto for damage caused by mold, fungus, a termite infestation, a landscaping mishap, or normal wear-and-tear to your fence. Few standard policies cover your home for this, and you’ll likely strike out too with a claim for the white picket structure that encloses its yard.

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Falling Trees

If a healthy tree falls onto your fence, the damage is typically covered. However, keep an eye on the health of trees on and near your property. Claims may be denied or reduced if the tree was already weakened through lack of maintenance or negligence--which could be deemed a foreseeable, and therefore preventable, mishap.

If that old, rotting, or diseased tree was on a neighbor’s property, your insurer may hold the neighbor accountable for the damage due to negligence. Depending on state-specific laws, however, a fence bordering a boundary line may hold both you and your neighbor responsible for 50% of the damage, with each of you paying half the deductible for repairing the fence. In either case, you will still have to file a claim with your home insurance provider, who may then opt to sue your neighbor (or their insurance policy) to recoup the costs.

If you think your neighbor’s tree poses a threat to your fence, then, it’s wise to let them know the tree is in need of maintenance; a little pruning or even cutting the tree down before it can cause damage could save both you and your neighbor from a future headache.

Storms and Vandalism

If a storm causes the wind to knock down or damage your fence, your homeowners insurance company will cover the damage up to your coverage limits. If your fence is vandalized, it will also be covered by your homeowners insurance. You should also contact your local police department to file a police report if damage to your fence was done by a person, rather than by a storm or other force of nature.

Damage From Car Collisions

If someone crashes their car into your fence, your homeowners policy should cover the damages. A better alternative however, one that will save you from filing a claim (and possibly raising your rates) will be to file a claim against the other driver's property damage liability car insurance (PD). Such coverage is required for drivers in every state, and will usually cover at least $10,000 worth of damage. As well, if your homeowners policy can't cover all the costs, filing a claim against the other driver's PD insurance can help meet the total costs. However, if it’s your car that crashes into the fence, you will not be able to file a claim against yourself.

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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.