Home Insurance Claims and Damage Caused by Trees

Fallen tree and home insurance coverage
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Trees are a pleasing feature of many areas and homes, but what happens if a tree falls on your home and causes damage? Does insurance cover the removal of the fallen tree and the damage that comes along with it?

It all depends on what the cause of the damage is. Home insurance will cover many forms of damage caused by trees, but it might not cover all issues.

Key Takeaways

  • Home insurance is meant to cover sudden and accidental damage. In most cases, it doesn't cover damage that happens over time. 
  • Whether your plan will cover damage caused by a tree depends on the reason the tree fell. 
  • If someone else’s tree damages your property, your insurance company will attempt to recover the costs from the party at fault.

Tree Damage Covered by Insurance

Your home insurance covers certain risks and perils. For instance, lightning and windstorms are two common perils. The first step in knowing whether your home plan will cover tree damage is to determine whether the damage was sudden and accidental. You will also need to find out if the damage happened over time. Insurance is meant to cover sudden and accidental damage and not slow damage or home maintenance.

Accidental Damage vs. Gradual Damage

One example of sudden damage would be if a windstorm uprooted a tree and it came crashing down on your house.

One example of gradual damage is when the roots of a tree grow into parts of your home or plumbing. The damage where the roots of the tree have been growing into would not be covered because the tree roots did not grow overnight. On the other hand, if the damage caused another issue, like your pipe bursting and water flowing into your home, then you might be covered for the water damage.

Types of Tree Damage That Home Insurance Covers

Insurance plans have special limits and things they will and will not cover. Damage that happens as a result of weather and storm damage is often covered by insurance.

If you have an all-risk policy versus a named perils policy, your plan will cover more events. If your home was damaged by a hurricane, tornado, or other named storms, your plan should have a claim deductible based on the total value of your home.

When a Tree Falls on a House or Property

Depending on the cause of the damage, a tree falling on a house may be covered or not. If the tree was healthy and it was not a maintenance issue, then there is a good chance you have coverage in your homeowners plan. If the tree was unhealthy and fell due to it not being taken care of, you may not be covered.

Sometimes It Matters Whom the Tree Belongs To

During a major storm, trees and branches from trees may be flying around and travel a long way. It may not always be clear who owns the flying debris that hit and damaged your home. You don't have to worry about finding out where the branches or tree came from if you do not know. If you have damage, call your insurance and let them know what happened. They can help you with your home insurance claim.

Deductibles for a Fallen Tree Claims

You should always know ahead of time the amount of your deductible. This is the out-of-pocket money you pay before your plan pays its portion of damages. When you have an insurance claim, you should be ready to pay that amount.

Often, the cost of damage from the fallen tree is less than the deductible or close to it, so you might decide not to make the claim in order not to lose a discount on your home policy. In a major claim, if the cost of the damage is very high, there may be a large loss deductible waiver.

If the cause of the damage to your property is not your fault, you may still need to pay the deductible, but you may be able to get it back. For instance, if a neighbor's tree fell on your home, your insurance may require that you pay the deductible but may try to get the money back from your neighbor's plan to pay you back. This concept is called subrogation, and it is quite common.

Coverage for Tree Removal

Fallen trees not only cause damage to homes but also must be removed once they have fallen after a storm. Most home insurance plans offer limited coverage for removal of fallen trees and other storm debris. There may be a maximum dollar limit on your policy, like $500 or $1,000. Your plan also might not cover the removal of trees if no structure was damaged. Each policy is different, so be sure to ask before you need to file a claim.

Root Damage Coverage

Many people will end up having damage to their building structures, pipes, and property from tree roots. One common problem is when the roots of a tree grow into the foundation of a home or the water entry pipe.

This damage can be very costly to repair. Always call your insurance to ask if the damage is covered, because every policy and event is unique. The concept of tree roots growing does not fit the definition of sudden and accidental, because roots grow very slowly. This explains why damage caused by roots would not be covered in most cases.

Getting a Tree Replaced After a Claim

Getting a tree replaced after filing a damage claim would fall under the landscaping section of your home policy. Your plan may limit or not cover a new tree even if the damage and removal of the tree were covered.

When Someone Else Is at Fault

Even though it's not your fault, when the neighbor's tree falls on your house, your plan will pay in order to fix your home right away. Your insurance company wants to make things safe and right for you, but they also know that someone else caused the damage. If they feel that a third party, like a neighbor, is responsible for the damage, they will take care of you first and then they go after the party at fault. This is what is meant by "subrogation." If your plan is able to recoup the costs of the claim in subrogation, then they may be able to pay you back for the deductible after the matter is settled.