Trees on your property offer shade, property value, air quality, and benefits to your mental and physical health. But like most additions to your property, they come with some liability—especially when storms or strong winds come along. Falling trees and limbs from your yard or your neighbors can cause damage to your home and other property.
So what happens when a tree does fall on your home—and who’s responsible for the cost of the damages?
The Rule of Thumb
Your property, your policy. A fallen tree or limb from wind, lightning, or hail is categorized as an “act of nature,” and your standard homeowners insurance policy covers damage to your dwelling, other structures, and any damage to their contents.
This means that if a tree falls on your home, you and your homeowners insurance are responsible for the damage—even if the tree fell from a neighbor's property or public/municipal property. It may seem unfair, but fortunately for you, the rule works both ways. If your tree falls on your neighbor’s property, their policy (not yours) will be responsible for the costs. Of course there may be exceptions in instances where your or your neighbor can prove negligence.
Liability & Negligence
So what if a tree falls on your home not from a storm but from neglect? Perhaps a tree in your neighbor’s yard is diseased and hollow, and even though you expressed concern that it may fall over and cause damage to your property, your neighbor fails to do anything about it, and the tree does fall.
Most of the time, your insurance is still going to be responsible for paying your claim in this case. However, the key difference is that if you can prove the neighbor was aware of the tree’s state and chose not to fix it, your insurance carrier could attempt to collect from your neighbor’s insurance—and if successful, you may be reimbursed for your deductible.
But once again, this rule applies both ways. If you neglect a diseased or damaged tree on your property that causes damage to your neighbor’s home, they can also try and prove you were negligent. So be sure to monitor and inspect your trees regularly for signs of disease or damage.
Other Structures on Your Property
Most homeowners' policies cover both your “dwelling” and “other structures.” Your dwelling includes your house and any attached fixtures and structures (like an attached garage). “Other structures” would likely include detached garages, sheds, fences, etc., but these structures are likely covered to a lesser degree than your dwelling. Make sure you understand your individual policy and ask specifically what structures are covered and for how much.
If a tree falls on your car instead of your dwelling or other structure, any coverage for damages would come through your auto insurance policy, not your homeowners policy. If you have comprehensive coverage, your auto policy should pay for the damages after your deductible. In the event the tree falls on a guest’s car, you should hope they took out their own comprehensive coverage as neither your homeowners policy or your auto policy will not cover the cost of the damages.
Removal & Cleanup
What about removal and cleanup—will insurance cover that? Yes and no. Imagine a tree falls on your property but doesn’t hit your home, car, fence, or any other structures. If the tree simply falls in the middle of your yard without blocking an entry or driveaway, it’s unlikely that removal or cleanup would be covered because no “damage” has occurred. If a tree is blocking a front door or driveway, many homeowners policies will pay for removal up to a certain amount. As always, be sure to check with your insurance agent to make sure you fully understand your coverage.
Before It Falls
It’s always better to be prepared and understand how your coverage will protect you in the event an act of nature causes damage to your property. Before the next storm comes, be sure to ask your local Cushman Insurance agent to get a quote or explain your current policy. Our agents are here to help every homeowner understand their unique insurance needs and clearly explain your existing coverage, so you can rest easy. Contact us today to learn more.
Solved! What to Do When a Tree Falls on Your House. Bob Vila. https://www.bobvila.com/articles/tree-falls-on-house/
Massachusetts law about neighbors and trees. Mass.gov. https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-law-about-neighbors-and-trees
If a tree falls on your house, are you covered? Insurance Information Institute. https://www.iii.org/article/if-a-tree-falls-on-your-house-are-you-covered