Not All Homeowners Policies Are the Same
Before we get started, it’s important to point out that homeowners policies vary from company to company and from contract to contract. You won’t know your property’s exact coverage until you read your individual policy.
What If a Tree Falls on Your House?
If a tree falls due to a “named peril” on your policy, and does damage to a covered structure, the homeowner’s insurance will cover:
- removal of the tree
- cleanup of debris
- fixing the damaged structure
A covered structure usually refers to a home, garage, fence, shed, or deck.
“Named perils” commonly include:
- Ice storms
- Snowstorms and sleet
Damage from vehicles not belonging to you
Are All Trees Usually Covered?
If a tree is dead, rotted, or diseased and falls on your property, insurance will most likely not pay for its removal or cleanup. Your insurance company expects you to be a responsible homeowner and remove these trees yourself as part of property maintenance.
The same standard goes for damage from neighbors’ trees.
What If a Tree Falls but Doesn’t Damage a Structure?
If a tree falls due to a storm, or other named peril, but doesn’t damage a covered structure, the policy will most probably not cover tree removal or cleanup.
Here’s an interesting example.
A mature 60-foot ash tree falls on your property. On the way, it takes down several other smaller trees. It creates quite a mess. Will your homeowner’s insurance cover it?
No. (Unless you have a specific rider to your policy for additional property coverage.)
These Special Circumstances May (or May Not) Be Covered
Many insurance policies in New Jersey will pay for removal if a tree falls and blocks access to your driveway or a wheelchair ramp. Other times, it requires a specific rider (endorsement) for your policy. A rider is simply an amendment to your insurance policy.
Insurance may exclude tree root damage from coverage. Other times it’s included.
When Is Tree Removal Always Covered by Insurance?
Most standard insurance policies cover any damage to your property that was caused by:
- Aircraft falling onto the property
This includes trees falling with no resulting property damage.
Can Your Insurance Be Expanded?
If you feel your insurance policy doesn’t offer enough monetary compensation for fallen trees, or doesn’t cover all necessary property, you can usually pay additional for an endorsement of your insurance policy.
These Natural Disasters Require Additional Insurance
If a flood or an earthquake destroys your tree, you may not be covered. These losses usually call for additional insurance—namely earthquake or flood insurance.
Earthquake insurance generally covers earthquakes and other forms of land movement like mudslides or sinkholes.
But even these policies may not cover removal and cleanup of fallen trees.
What if Your Tree Falls on Your Car?
This would be a bad day. And here’s some information that would make it worse.
Your homeowner’s insurance doesn’t pay for this damage. This is because a car isn’t included as a covered structure.
However, there is some good news. A comprehensive coverage car insurance policy will most likely pay for the damage to the car.
Now, back to the bad news—car insurance won’t pay to take the tree off your car.
If one of your trees falls on a neighbor’s car, their comprehensive car insurance will cover the cost of repair.
What About a Neighbor’s Tree?
What happens if a neighbor’s tree falls on your property and knocks down your fence or damages your home’s roof? Your homeowner’s insurance may cover having the tree removed. But if the neighbor was negligent and the tree is dead and rotted, your insurance may not cover it. However, their insurance probably will.
If one of your trees falls on your neighbor’s property because of an ice storm, and it does damage to their home, you are usually not responsible for paying for its removal or for any damage done.
It’s possible you or your neighbor will file a liability claim against the other’s home insurer.
What if a storm uproots a neighbor’s tree and it falls on your property? Will insurance cover removal and cleanup?
Again, the answer is no. If no damage has been done to a covered structure on your property, insurance will not cover it.
What If You Don’t Like a Tree and Want It Removed?
Do you have a tree that’s causing problems?
Do you have a tall apple tree that drops rotting fruit in your backyard every summer? Or is there a cherry tree that’s grown so much it blocks your entire living room window?
Will homeowners insurance cover removal of these trees?
What if you have a diseased tree that is going to die? Will insurance cover this tree’s removal?
No. The associated costs are considered part of your regular tree maintenance.
How To Determine a Tree’s Owner
The tree’s trunk decides tree ownership. If the trunk is entirely on the land of one person, that person owns the tree. If the trunk is on the property of two or more people, it usually belongs to all property owners.
Any tree branches that extend over your property are your responsibility. If you like, you can cut them all the way back to the property line. It’s your choice.