Tough Tree-Related Insurance Questions

Have any insurance questions related to the trees in your backyard? Review our tip sheet for some answers.

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Q: If my neighbor’s tree falls in my yard, whose insurance covers it?

A: Trees are tricky. The best thing to know is that every homeowner is responsible for what’s in his or her own yard.

If a neighbor’s tree lands on your property, it’s then considered in your yard. Your homeowners insurance will help cover the removal of the tree and any damage it caused, after your deductible. The same is true in reverse: if your tree falls in your neighbor’s yard or on their roof, they should file the claim with their insurance.

In my experience, neighbors are usually able to work out what needs to be done without too much disagreement. However, if the tree has been identified as a problem tree—one that’s rotting inside or that’s split before—the case might get a little heated and one person can be considered liable for the damage. When that happens, one homeowner’s insurance company may try to settle the claim with the other’s homeowner’s insurance in a process called subrogation.

To make sure this doesn’t happen, tend to the health of all the trees on your property. Prune them regularly so they don’t interfere with electrical or telephone lines, and if the tree’s health is questionable, call a specialist before any damage occurs.

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Beautiful, But Dangerous

Choose the right trees for your property and keep them properly trimmed.

According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, falling trees and limbs cause hundreds of millions of dollars of damage every year, as well as personal injuries and deaths.

Just as surprising, it’s not just roofs and cars that take a hit. Sometimes a tree causes damage underground, out of sight and without falling. Aggressive roots can damage the foundation of a house, buckle sidewalks or plug up septic systems, forcing homeowners to spend thousands of dollars on repairs.

Noticing the problem:
Some potential problems are easy to spot. They include:

  • Dead limbs.
  • Cracks in the trunk or major limbs.
  • Hollow and decayed trees.
  • Trees that look one-sided or lean significantly.
  • Branches hanging over the house or near the roof.
  • Limbs in contact with power lines.
  • Mushrooms growing from the bark or over the roots, indicating decay or weakness in the tree.
  • Insect or disease problems.
  • V-shaped forks rather than U-shaped ones. V-shaped are more likely to split.
  • Crossing branches that rub or interfere with one another.

If you have a concern about a tree in your yard, call a tree care professional—a certified arborist is the best choice. Or, if you’re thinking about planting a tree, make sure you choose an appropriate species for your area and one that will not grow too close to or lean toward your house.

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