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Your homeowners insurance will cover the costs of damage to your fence depending on the cause of the damage. The “other structures” coverage under your home insurance policy covers damage to your fence from a storm or neighborhood vandal, but not from the dings of a lawnmower or landscaping gone wrong. Most homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for fence damage up to a certain percentage of the policy’s total coverage; this coverage is usually capped at 10%.
When is Your Fence Covered by Homeowners Insurance?
Your homeowners insurance will cover damage done to your fence based upon how the damage happened, up to the limits of your policy. 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. Damage caused by mold, fungus, a termite infestation, a landscaping mishap, or normal wear-and-tear to your fence is also not covered by your home insurance. Essentially, if your house isn’t covered by such protection, neither is your fence.
The amount you are covered for is usually capped at 10% of your total policy 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. The following are some situations where your fence damage will be covered by homeowners insurance:
Your Healthy Tree Falls on Your Fence
If a healthy tree falls onto your fence, your home insurance will cover the damage. If the tree was already weakened through lack of maintenance or negligence, your insurance company may choose to not cover the damage. They typically only cover accidents, and would consider a weakened tree to be a forseeable, and therefore preventable issue. It'll be best to keep an eye on the health of trees on and near your property.
Neighbor's Tree Falls on Your Fence
Next, a neighbor’s old, rotting, or diseased tree falling down and damaging your fence means your insurer will hold them 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, 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 policy will cover the damage up to your coverage limits. If your fence is vandalized, it will 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 someone, rather than a storm or force of nature.
Another Person's Car Crashes into Your Fence
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 raising your rates) will be to file a claim against the other driver's property damage liability car insurance (PD). PD coverage is required 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. If it is your car that crashes into the fence though, you will not be able to file a claim against yourself.
What Should You do Before Filing a Homeowners Claim?
After you notice the issues with your fence, you’ll want to take pictures of the damage before you begin cleaning up or moving anything. Having photographs of the destruction to your fence will prove to your insurer that the fence was damaged by natural causes, a vandal, or reckless driving. In the latter two cases, the police report will also serve as substantial proof.
Next, contact a contractor and have an estimate made of the damage done to your fence. Before filing a claim though, keep in mind that if the total cost of the damage to your fence is less than the cost of your deductible, you may be better off paying for the repairs yourself without making an insurance claim. All home insurance policies have a set deductible that must first be paid out-of-pocket by you before your insurance provider will cover the rest of the cost. As well, claims towards your homeowners insurance may raise your premiums, so you only want to file a claim when the cost of repairs exceeds the deductible that you’re responsible for.
If you do want to proceed with filing a claim, you should then look in your home insurance policy for a section covering “other structures.” The other structures section will let you know under which specific circumstances damage to your fence is covered and what that coverage is capped at. If you can’t find this section, give your agent a call for details.
How Do You File a Fence Damage Homeowners Claim?
Once you have pictures and documentation of the damage done to your fence, as well as an estimate for the cost of repairing it, it’s time to give your insurance provider a call to file a homeowners claim. If you wish not to call, most large insurance companies will have the option of filing the claim online.
The agent who handles your call will ask you a few questions about the damage to help you figure out if the cost of repair is higher than your deductible, as well as inquiring about the nature of the damage done. Next, you’ll be sent some claim forms to fill out to report the damage. The insurance company will then send an insurance adjuster out to assess the damage for themselves and determine what, if any, damage is covered. Make sure you meet with the adjuster to point out any damage he or she might miss and provide the adjuster with your pictures and police report, if there is one. It’s also a good idea to provide the adjuster with any pictures of the fence prior to the damage, if you have any.
After the adjuster’s inspection, the insurance company will let you know how much money they will cover for the cost of repairs. Keep in mind that you can negotiate if you feel they’re not offering to cover enough. This is where having an estimate from an independent contractor comes in handy. If the payout is unreasonable or denied outright, the insurance company has to give you a reason as to why. If you disagree, speak with the adjuster, your agent, or have another contractor or adjuster come out for a second estimate. Once you’ve reached an acceptable settlement with your insurer, they may elect to provide you with partial payment before repairs begin and pay the remainder after repair on the fence is finished.