Fallen trees – Are they your responsibility?

As snow and ice storms sweep the country due to the lovely ‘Polar Vortex’ – a record number of fallen trees were left. If a tree falls in your yard, is it covered under your homeowners insurance policy? Or, if your neighbor’s tree falls in your yard, whose responsibility is it?

Although we can’t control if a tree falls in our yard or on our property, the only thing that matters is if a tree fell in our yard or on our property. It generally does not matter where the tree originated, only where it ends.

The first place to check for insurance coverage is the homeowners policy. If the tree was caused by a storm (lightning, wind, ice, snow, etc.) and caused damage to your property (i.e. house, shed, garage) coverage will usually apply under the homeowners policy. This coverage applies even if the tree did not originate in your yard. The company that writes the homeowners insurance may try and subrogate against your neighbor, if they feel as though they were liable for the tree falling through any negligence or inaction (trimming limbs, etc.).

This explains why many companies request that insureds trim tree branches or trees that appear to be at high risk for falling. It protects your property in addition to eliminating liability exposures. Poorly maintained trees in yards are red flags for risk and may cause a company to deny an offer for coverage on the property and premise.

What if a tree falls in your yard, but causes no damage to your property? Again, the first place to start is the homeowners insurance policy. Some policies may provide coverage for

tree removal and cleanup costs while many companies do not. As always, it is important to contact your insurance representative or company to find out if coverage applies.

Fallen trees are generally unthought of of during the insurance purchasing process; however, they can be a hassle when they fall. Furthermore, substantial damage can occur from fallen trees. Therefore, it is worth a discussion with your trusted insurance representative to assess your risk and risk tolerance for this exposure.