Will Homeowner's Insurance Pay for Tree Removal & Debris Cleanup After a Storm?

If the tree hits your house, you should be covered.

If the tree hits your house, you should be covered.

A major storm can leave chaos in its wake -- downed power lines, downed trees, damaged houses, and tree limbs and debris everywhere. If the storm brought down a tree on your property, your homeowner's insurer may pay to remove it, or the company may let it lie. It depends on your policy coverage and the circumstances of the fall.

Where It Falls

If the tree falls on your house, homeowner's insurance usually covers removing it and repairing the damage. Even if it's your neighbor's tree, your insurer will handle it. If the tree or a heavy limb falls on your garage, your deck or other structures, that's covered too. If your policy insures your fences, or specifically says that the insurer will pay to remove a tree blocking your driveway, trees on the driveway or the fence are also covered. Otherwise, they're not.

Out of Luck

If a tree falls and hits nothing but the lawn, you're out of luck. Homeowner's insurance doesn't cover removing trees or branches that don't hit buildings and aren't blocking anything. If a tree or a branch looks like it's about to fall on your garage, removing it first might be smart, but your insurance doesn't cover preventive removal either. Even if the tree or a couple of trees did fall on your house, most policies don't pay more than $500 or $1,000 to haul them off. You're on your own for anything more.

Root Causes

The reason the tree fell may affect whether you're covered. If the insurer can show that you neglected the tree until it rotted, that might be grounds for refusing to pay you. If it's your neighbor's mistreated tree, your insurer pays you, but may then sue your neighbor to get the money back. If you live in coastal areas at high risk for hurricanes, your insurance policy may exempt damage caused by high winds -- such as a tree blowing over -- unless you take out extra wind coverage.

Considerations

Don't wait for the insurance money to start removing trees and debris: The sooner you get the tree off your house and any holes repaired, the less damage your furniture and carpets suffer. Before you remove anything, take photographs to record the damage. Insurers review claims carefully for possible fraud and if you can't prove the tree caved in your roof, the claims adjuster may turn you down. If your tree fell on your car, your homeowner's insurance doesn't cover it, but car insurance might.

About the Author

Author of two film reference books, "Cyborgs, Santa Claus and Satan" and "The Wizard of Oz Catalog." Published in Air & Space, Backpacker, Newsweek, The Writer, and multiple trade journals (can fax samples if requested, don't have them available digitally)

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