Tree ownership doesn’t equate to damage liability
The brokers and CSRs at DPM Insurance Group are often asked: “If a tree falls on a house during a storm, whose insurance pays for the damage – the owner of the tree or the owner of the house?”
Windstorms are a covered peril on a standard homeowner’s insurance policy, but when one person’s tree falls on another person’s house or car, the big question is always whose insurance policy covers the loss?
Obviously, when your tree falls on your house, your homeowner’s policy will provide coverage for any damages up to your policy limits, after you pay your deductible. Your home, garage, shed or other additional buildings, and structures like a fence are all covered. The debris removal from the tree itself is also covered, up to the limits outlined in your policy.
But if your tree comes down in your yard during a windstorm without causing any damage to your house or other structures, you are responsible to take care of the removal of the tree debris as your homeowner’s policy will not cover debris removal alone.
Now, if your neighbour’s tree falls on your house, the insurance policy of the property that was damaged pays for the loss. In other words, if your neighbour’s tree falls on your house, your homeowner’s insurance covers the damage to your house. Even if the neighbor’s tree that fell on your house was old and weak, and you think the damage could have been avoided, your insurance still covers the damage.
If the condition of your neighbour’s tree is a serious concern, you can ask them about removing it, but generally speaking, the neighbor can’t be forced to remove the tree. If you have serious concerns about your safety, you may wish to get the tree evaluated by a professional and then send a certified letter to your neighbor requesting the removal of the tree. This will put your insurance company in a stronger position to argue your neighbor’s negligence in the event of a claim.
Now, if a tree falls on a car, once again, who owns the tree is irrelevant. The comprehensive coverage of the vehicle owner’s auto policy pays any claim. So, if your tree falls on your neighbor’s car, your neighbor’s car insurance should pay the claim if your neighbor carries comprehensive coverage. If your neighbor’s tree falls on your car, your comprehensive coverage applies.
The problem is that comprehensive coverage on an auto insurance policy can be waived, and many drivers opt to decline this protection in order to save money. So, if you have car insurance but you don’t buy comprehensive coverage as part of your policy, the damage from a falling tree or branch would not be covered by anyone’s policies.
If you have questions about your policies, and what perils you are or are not covered for, one of DPM’s insurance brokers or CSRs would be happy to provide a no-obligation, no-cost policy review. Click here to contact one of our six offices today: https://dpmins.com/locations/