If a tree falls and hits your house and no one’s home, does it make a sound? Yes — the sound of you scrambling for your homeowners insurance policy when you get home.
For something as simple as a tree hitting your home, determining insurance coverage can be more complicated than you might think.
What caused the tree to fall?
Determining what caused the tree to fall is an important factor as to whether your home would be protected by insurance.
A standard homeowners insurance policy typically covers your home and other structures, such as a detached garage, from damage to it and the contents from a listed peril such as trees falling because of wind, lightning, hail, or weight of ice, snow or sleet. Damage to a fence, detached garage and structures other than your home will generally be capped at 10 percent of your coverage.
A storm with high winds that topples a healthy tree onto your home would be covered. However, if the tree was dying and about to fall down before the storm, your homeowners insurance may not cover it because loss caused by negligence or a maintenance issue isn’t covered.
If a hurricane knocks a tree onto your home, you’d still be covered but would likely have to pay a higher insurance deductible if it’s a named hurricane, such as Hurricane Harvey in Texas or Hurricane Irma in Florida.
Prepare to pay the deductible
A hurricane deductible is often large and should be weighed against the damage to the home. A 5 percent hurricane deductible on a $300,000 house is $15,000, compared to a typical deductible of $500 for a standard insurance policy on the same house.
States can differ on how they classify hurricanes, though sustained winds of 75 mph are often needed for a storm to be named a hurricane by the National Weather Service. If it isn’t named as a hurricane, then the higher hurricane deductible won’t be required.
But even if a hurricane doesn’t knock over trees around your house, you’ll still have to pay the insurance deductible before your insurance will pay for a covered loss. Coverage limits will apply.
Your neighbor’s tree
Damage to your home by a tree on your property is covered by your homeowners insurance, but what if the fallen tree is on your neighbor’s property and hits your house or fence? Yes, you’ll be covered, according to the Insurance Information Institute, or III.
An insurance company isn’t usually going to spend time trying to figure out where a tree or branches originally came from. This can include tree branches that were blown onto your property and damaged it that flew over from a neighbor’s house or down the street.
If the tree was on your neighbor’s property, the insurance company may try to collect from their insurance company first. If it succeeds, you may be reimbursed for your deductible.
If a storm knocks over a healthy tree on your property onto your neighbor’s house, they’ll need to file a claim through their own insurer. If you didn’t maintain the tree properly, you could be responsible for the repair and your insurance might not cover you.
Tree and shrub removal and replacement
Removing a fallen tree that has hit your property should also be covered by your insurance. It may have limits of $500 to $1,000, according to III.
If the fallen tree didn’t hit an insured structure, debris removal probably won’t be covered by insurance. However, if it’s blocking a driveway or ramp designed to help the handicapped, then the removal could be covered.
Replacing landscaping after a severe storm can be expensive. Standard insurance policies cover damage to trees and shrubs from disasters or an accident. These include fire, lightning, explosion, theft, aircraft, vandalism, malicious mischief and vehicles not owned by the resident. Damage from water or wind may not be covered for replacing landscaping.
Coverage is often limited to 5 percent of the total insurance on the structure of a house and may be capped at $500 for any one tree, shrub or plant.
A tree hits your car
If a tree hits your home, you’re probably covered by your homeowners insurance. But what if the tree hits your car?