Does Home Insurance Cover Tree Removal After a Storm?
Does Home Insurance Cover Tree Removal After a Storm?
Homeowners insurance pays for tree removal following a storm in most cases, but not all. What causes the tree to fall, as well as where it lands, determines whether your homeowners insurance company will foot the bill.
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When does homeowners insurance cover tree removal after a storm?
Whether you are covered for tree removal by your homeowners insurance depends on the cause of the tree collapse, as well as where it falls.
Cause of tree falling
Tree removal covered?
|Fire, lightning, etc.*||Yes|
|Storm, hail, ice||Only if it falls on your house|
*Also includes explosion, riot, aircraft, vehicles not owned by you, vandalism and theft.
If a storm blows a tree onto your home or any other structure, like a shed, the cost of the tree's removal would be covered.
On the other hand, if a storm blows a tree into your yard and it doesn't destroy any structures, your insurance company would not cover the cost of removal.
If the cause of the collapse is fire, lightning, explosion, riot, aircraft, vehicles not owned by you, vandalism or theft, however, the tree removal would be covered whether it lands on your home or in empty space.
Another cause that generally isn't covered is if a tree falls due to natural causes like age or rot. Insurance companies don't cover events that are considered preventable, and insurers may determine that you should have removed the tree before the storm.
If a tree falls due to an earthquake or flood, you need to have separate flood insurance and earthquake insurance policies. Damage from these events is not covered under a standard homeowners policy.
If a tree originates in your neighbor's yard and falls onto your yard or home, your homeowners insurance company would still cover the removal for all of the same reasons discussed above. In this case, however, your insurer may try to recoup its losses from your neighbor's insurance company.
Lastly, if a tree falls on your car, your 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 insurance policies, so a car would likely be treated the same as "empty space" if a tree falls on it.
Depending on the situation, you'd also likely be covered by comprehensive car insurance.
How much does insurance pay toward tree removal?
There is a cap to how much your insurer will spend on tree removal. That limit is usually 5% of your total dwelling coverage. So if your dwelling coverage limit is $250,000, you would be entitled to up to $12,500 for debris and tree removal.
There is a caveat though: insurers often won't spend more than $500 per tree. So if four trees fall on your lawn, the insurer will likely only pay a maximum of $2,000 — or $500 for each tree. The cost of removing a fallen tree is typically between $85 and $300, so the coverage should be adequate. As for damage to your home, you would be covered for the full extent of your dwelling coverage.
We recommend you check your individual policy. While the $500 cap is typical, your policy might cover up to $1,000 — or possibly lower than $500.
Should you file a claim?
You should also be cautious of your deductible. Typical homeowners deductibles are around $500 to $1,000, so it wouldn't make sense to file a claim to remove one tree that didn't cause any damage to your home. Since it only costs between $85 and $300 to remove a fallen tree from a yard, it likely wouldn't be cost-effective to file a claim for tree removal unless the tree damaged your home and is part of a larger and more expensive claim.
How your insurance company can help repair damage to your home
If your home has been damaged by a fallen tree, your insurance company may offer a service to put you in contact with a qualified contractor. These 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 is a list of insurance companies with the best home repair assistance services.
Liberty Mutual's Guaranteed Repair Network matches you with a reputable contractor, but the best feature of the program is that any completed work is covered by a three- to five-year warranty. The contractor you select works directly with Liberty Mutual, meaning that the claim will likely be resolved faster than it would have been otherwise.
Amica's Home Repair Assistance Program allows you to select from more than 2,000 prescreened contractors. Similar to other programs, 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.
State Farm's Premier Service Program can be helpful if a fallen tree causes you to need roof replacement, structural repairs or water mitigation. All providers in the Premier Service Program have a five-year warranty on their work. Similar to other programs, you would select from a list of State Farm-approved service companies and the carrier would be involved in the process, reviewing and approving estimates.
How to prevent trees from falling in the first place
It's much harder for a strong, healthy tree to be knocked down in a storm. Remove any trees that look unhealthy, because your insurance company may 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, the insurer may make a case that had you not neglected the tree — and had you removed it preemptively — it wouldn't have fallen down and damaged the house in the first place.
While a professional is best qualified to diagnose a deficient tree, you can notice some initial signs. Trees that are hunched over significantly, for example, are likely unhealthy and may fall down. Most trees have a natural lean, but take note of trees that appear to lean much more than neighboring trees. Unhealthy trees may also have exposed roots on one side. Trees with multiple split trunks can also become weaker as they age.
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