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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 in your home insurance policy covers damage to your fence from storms and vandalism, but not from the dings of a lawnmower or landscaping gone wrong. As for the amount of coverage, most policies cover fence damage up to a certain percentage of the policy's total coverage — usually 10%.
When is fence damage covered by homeowners insurance?
Your homeowners insurance will cover damage to your fence based upon how the damage happened, up to the limits of your policy. For instance, fence damage caused by a flood or earthquake is not covered, as both events are excluded from standard coverage.
Damage caused by mold, fungus, a termite infestation, a landscaping mishap or normal wear and tear to your fence is also not covered by standard home insurance. Roughly speaking, if your house isn't covered for a given peril, neither is your fence.
The amount of coverage you have for structures other than your main dwelling is usually capped at 10% of your total policy coverage. For example, if you have $200,000 of coverage on your house, 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 should be covered by homeowners insurance:
Your tree falls on your fence
If a healthy tree on your land 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. Insurers typically only cover accidents and would consider a weakened tree to be a foreseeable and preventable issue. This makes it important to keep an eye on the health of trees on and near your property.
A neighbor's tree falls on your fence
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, which may then look to your neighbor (or their insurance) to recover 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 or vandalism damage your fence
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 in that situation as well. 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.
Someone's car crashes into your fence
If someone crashes their car into your fence, then your homeowners policy should cover the damage. However, you may be able to avoid filing a claim against your home insurance by filing a claim against the driver's property damage liability car insurance. Property liability coverage is required for drivers in every state and will usually cover at least $10,000 worth of damage.
In addition, filing a claim against the driver's liability insurance can help meet the total costs if your homeowners policy can't cover all the costs. If it's your car that crashed into the fence, you won't be able to file a claim against yourself.
What should you do before filing a claim for your fence?
When you notice your fence is damaged, you should take pictures before cleaning up or moving anything. Photographs of your fence help prove to your insurer that the damage was due to natural causes, vandalism 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. If the total cost of the estimate for repairing the fence is less than the cost of your insurance deductible, you're probably better off paying for the repairs yourself without making a claim.
This is because insurance policies have a deductible that the policyholder must pay out of pocket before the insurer compensates any costs. Making claims also raises your homeowners insurance premiums, so it only makes sense to file a claim when the cost of repairs exceeds your deductible.
If it does make financial sense to file a claim, the next step is to look over the "other structures" coverage in your home insurance policy. This section outlines the specific circumstances in which damage to your fence is covered and for how much. If you can't find this section, give your agent or insurer a call for details.
How do you file a fence damage claim with your homeowners insurance?
Once you have pictures of the damage to your fence and an estimate for the cost of repairing it, it's time to contact your insurance company and file a homeowners claim. Most insurers let you do this either by phone or 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, and they will inquire about the nature of the damage done. Next, you'll be sent some claim forms to fill out.
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 they might miss and provide 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 inform you of how much money it will provide to cover repairs. Keep in mind that you can negotiate if you feel the insurer is not offering to cover enough. This is where having an estimate from an independent contractor can come in handy.
If the claim is denied or the payout is unreasonable, the insurance company has to give you a reason. If you disagree, speak with the adjuster or your agent, or have another contractor or adjuster come out for a second estimate. Once you've reached an acceptable settlement with your insurer, it may choose to provide you with partial payment before repairs begin and pay the remainder after repairs on the fence are finished.