Does Insurance Cover Tree Damage and Tree Removal?
May 11, 2017
Hurricane Sandy toppled more than 8,000 trees in New York City alone. For those of us who live in the New England suburbs, major wind events and thunderstorms are no less destructive. Mature trees tower over our homes and driveways. Limb breakage can destroy a roof, a car, or worse…
Since many people ask us, “does insurance cover tree damage and tree removal?” we wanted to address a few tree-related FAQs.
Which trees are most likely to fall or break during a storm?
While it’s true that some trees (e.g. palms) are categorically more resilient in windy weather, it’s most important to consider the overall health and strength of the trees you have on your property versus the type. Risk factors for all trees include:
The taller the tree, the more susceptible it is to “windthrow,” or the lever-effect produced by high velocity winds. Tall trees with shallow root systems are riskier still.
- CLUSTERED VS. SOLITARY
If you live in a new development, you should note that trees with altered environments (major digging near their root systems or the loss of surrounding trees) may also present an elevated risk. A tree that grew in the midst of a forest is suddenly much more vulnerable when its neighboring trees are cut down to make way for houses or condominiums.
- SATURATED SOIL
Roughly 90 percent of a tree’s roots are just 18 to 24 inches below the ground. If your yard has poor drainage and/or your trees’ roots are decayed, even a few inches of rain can create uprooting conditions.
- SHARP JOINTS
Multi-stemmed trees may pose an increased risk of breaking—especially if the joints between the diverging trunks are sharply V-shaped versus U-shaped.
Will home insurance pay for a tree that falls or drops a heavy limb?
In many cases, your MA home insurance policy will pay for damages that occur if a tree hits your house or other insured structures (carports, decks, sheds, fences, etc.). To be specific, you may be compensated for structural damage, damage to any personal property inside the structure, removal of fallen trees/branches, temporary housing (while repairs are being made), and liability costs (in case someone else is injured or experiences a loss due to a tree that’s rooted on your property). However—and this is a big HOWEVER—not all tree damage is covered. Keep reading…
Will home insurance pay to remove a tree/large branch after it falls or breaks?
That depends on a few variables: where it fell and why it fell.
If a tree falls in the middle of your yard, and it’s not blocking access to your home or driveway, your home insurance probably won’t pay to have it removed.
Now, let’s look at the “why.” If an otherwise healthy tree uproots or breaks due to high winds, saturated soil, or added weight from ice/snow, your homeowner’s policy would likely the cover the cost of the fallen tree’s removal, as well as any damage it caused. If, however, the tree was already unstable, you may be on the hook for its removal and the havoc it wreaks.
Will home insurance pay to remove a damaged tree before it falls?
No. Home insurance does not cover preventative maintenance on trees and tree branches.
Why would I pay to remove a tree, if I can just wait for it to fall, and let the insurance company pay for it?
Again, there is such a thing as negligence in this situation. If you know your tree is unsafe, and you don’t take steps to fix it before disaster strikes (e.g. it falls on your roof, damages a neighbor’s property, or causes an injury), your can be held financially responsible.
Granted, it’s difficult to prove negligence in the case of a damaged tree. But if your neighbor has approached you with a concern about a particular tree, and it subsequently falls, you would have a hard time saying the tree’s health never occurred to you. Your best bet is to call a professional, and have any suspect trees examined. The good news is that professional intervention can often save at-risk trees from having to be removed completely; pruning can sometimes correct trees that are leaning, while cables and bracing can counteract some cases of splitting.
How can I tell if my trees are rotting, dead, or damaged?
If you want to do some arboreal detective work, there are several warning signs you can look for: mushrooms or fungus around the base of the tree (which may indicate root rot), deep cracks or holes in the trunk, uneven foliage that moves from the outside inward, or—more imminently—cracks in the soil, and the ground rising up around the base of the trunk. Again though, it’s best to leave the investigation to a licensed professional.
In conclusion, if you have any concerns about the trees on your property, it’s always worth the money to contact a certified arborist. The Massachusetts Arborists Association offers a local arborist search tool, so you can find an expert in your area. And if you have more questions about trees and insurance, don’t hesitate to call us at 508.339.2951.