(Imagine this)….I was sitting in my living room when it happened. It seemed to come out of nowhere. One minute I was watching jeopardy and the next minute there was a tree in my living room. And by tree I don’t mean branch, I mean a 20 foot solid oak. The weather had said strong winds but nothing that we needed to worry about. I knew that tree would come down eventually as it was semi-dying, but never did I think I would have to worry about this happening. Two feet from me was the old oak. There was debris everywhere I looked and a skylight the size of my living room. I looked for the door and could see there was no way of getting to it. One of my windows had broken into a million pieces. There was my exit. I quickly climbed out. When I stood back and looked at my house, I burst into tears. The tree fell smack dab in the middle of the house, taking most of the roof with it. I immediately ran to the neighbors and called for help. After the shock of it all, I wondered how am I going to pay for all the damages. There was major structural damage and would my insurance policy cover it? I called my agent who explained that being there was no reason other than the wind to cause the tree to fall, I could turn in an insurance claim. Homeowner’s policies generally always cover fire, lightning, wind, hail and falling objects, so in this case with it being wind as the peril, the damage to the home was covered. Sometimes there must be actual “damage to covered property" in order for the tree debris removal part to be covered, and then there is usually a limit for the amount of the debris removal. We’ve all seen those major windstorms where there are branches and tree’s all over town. So if that happens and there is no damage to “covered property", your insurance may not pay anything to just remove the tree’s all over your yard and driveway. We talked with one of our carriers who had a bill turned in on a claim for $20,000 in tree debris removal, wow! The specific policy on this claim had a limit for debris removal of $2,000 so that is all that was paid. What if the neighbor’s tree falls on your house? Who is liable? Well, that all depends! Was the tree dying and the neighbor neglected to have it removed? Then the neighbor will likely be held liable and will be responsible for the damages to your home. If the tree was healthy and the neighbor did nothing to cause the tree to fall, then unfortunately that may be a claim you need to turn in on your own policy to cover the damages to your home. Each situation and each homeowner’s policy in itself is specific when it comes to these things and it is always best to check with your agent.
Happy Arbor Day!