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Homeowners insurance will pay for tree removal in most cases following a storm, but not all. Depending on how the tree was cut down, as well as where it lands, will determine when your homeowners insurance company will foot the bill.
When does homeowners insurance cover tree removal after a storm?
Whether you are covered depends on the cause of the tree collapse as well as where it fell. The following table is a quick run down of when tree removal would or would not be covered by your insurer:
|Cause of Tree Falling||Where Tree Fell||Tree Removal Covered?|
|Storm, Hail, Ice||On the home||Yes|
|Fire, Lightning, etc.*||On the home||Yes|
|Fire, Lightning, etc*||On lawn or empty space||Yes|
|Storm, Hail, Ice||On lawn or empty space||No|
|Flood, Earthquake||Home, lawn, or empty space||No|
|Rot, Age||Home, lawn, or empty space||No|
*fire, lightning, explosion, riot, aircraft, vehicles not owned by you, vandalism or theft
So if a storm came and blew a tree onto your home, or any other structure of your home like a shed, the cost of the removal would be covered. On the other hand, say the storm blew the tree into your yard--not destroying anything--your insurance company would not cover the cost of removal actually. If the cause of the collapse was fire, lightning, explosion, riot, aircraft, vehicles not owned by you, vandalism or theft however, the tree removal would be covered if it landed on your home or in empty space.
Other reasons you wouldn't be covered would be if the tree fell down because of natural reasons--age, rot, etc., then you would most likely not be covered. Insurance companies will not insure events that can be considered 'preventable'--insurers think you could have removed the tree before the storm hit. For earthquakes and floods you need to take out separate flood insurance and earthquake insurance policies, so you wouldn't be covered under your standard homeowners policy.
If the tree originated in your neighbors yard, and fell into your yard or home, your homeowners insurance company would still cover the removal for all of the same reasons we discuss above. In this case however, your insurer may try to recoup their losses from your neighbors insurance company. Lastly, if the tree falls on your car, the insurer will likely only cover its removal if it was caused by fire, lightning, explosion, riot, aircraft, vehicles not owned by you, vandalism or theft--and not a storm. Cars are typically excluded from homeowners policies, so it would likely be treated as 'empty space' should a tree fall on it.
How much does insurance pay towards tree removal?
There is a cap to how much your insurer will spend when removing a tree, and usually that limit is 5% of your total dwelling coverage. So if you are covered for $250,000, you would be entitled to $12,500 for debris/tree removal.
There is a caveat though: insurers won't spend more than $500 per tree. So if you had four trees fall on your lawn, the insurer will only pay a max $2,000, $500 for each tree, to be removed. According to Treeremoval.com however, the cost of removing a fallen tree is typically between $75 and $150 so the coverage should be adequate. As for damage to your home, you would be covered for the full extent for your coverage. We would recommend you check your individual policy. While the $500 is typical, your policy can be covered up to $1,000--or possibly lower than $500.
Should you file a claim?
Another thing to be cautious of however is your deductible. Typical homeowners deductibles are around $750 to $1,000, so it wouldn't make sense to file a claim to just remove one tree that didn't cause any damage to your home. Since it only costs between $75 and $150 to remove a tree from a yard, it likely wouldn't be cost effective to file any claim for tree removal unless the trees did damage to your home and is part of a larger--more expensive--claim.
How your insurance company can help repair damage to your home
If your home has been damaged by a falling tree, your insurance company may offer a service to put you in contact with a qualified contractor. The services have benefits that you likely wouldn't receive if you didn't use a contractor within the insurance company's network, such as warranties and free estimates. Below, we provide a list of insurance companies with the best home repair assistance services.
Farmers' Guaranteed Repair Program matches you with a reputable contractor, but the best feature of the program is that any work completed is covered by a five-year warranty. Furthermore, the contractor you select works directly with Farmers, meaning that the claim will likely be resolved faster than it would have been otherwise. Additionally, the contractor won't receive a full payment until the work is completed to your standards.
Amica's Home Repair Assistance Program allows you to select from more than 2,000 prescreened contractors. Similar to Farmers' program, contractors work directly with the insurance company to submit a repair estimate. The best feature is that a contractor can be on the scene within a few hours, which is a huge benefit if you're dealing with something like a leaking roof.
How to prevent trees from falling in the first place
It is much harder for a strong healthy tree to be knocked down in a storm. Likely, it will be an older, unhealthy tree that will be pushed over. It is important to remove any trees that look unhealthy because your insurance company can give you a hard time when it comes to paying for the damage they caused. Even though you are covered for a tree falling down, they may make a case that had you not neglected the tree — and removed it preemptively — it wouldn't have fallen down and damaged the house in the first place.
There are several things to watch out for when it comes to your trees. While a professional will be the only person able to officially diagnose a deficient tree, you can notice some initial signs. Trees that are hunched over significantly for example are likely unhealthy and can fall down. Most trees have a natural lean, but ones that appear much more so than its neighboring trees you should take note of. Unhealthy trees may also have exposed roots on one side of the tree. Trees with multiple split trunks can also become weakened as they age.