A dead tree signals trouble -- for the tree and for you. You may think it’s expensive when you get an estimate to remove the tree and carry off the debris, but the expenses might increase. Removal of a dead tree probably isn’t covered under your homeowners insurance policy unless it falls on your house or your neighbor's house. If the tree falls on the neighbor’s house, your policy might pay under the liability provisions if you’re legally liable.
Homeowners insurance is state-regulated, and the states have numbers indicating the type of policy, with HO-1 providing the least coverage and HO-5 providing the most insurance for a single-family home. State-approved homeowner policies include two basic sections -- property coverage and liability coverage. Within property coverage are sections for the dwelling, other structures, contents, loss of use and additional coverage. Personal liability insurance includes liability and medical payments. Both the property and liability coverage sections have exclusions and conditions.
You might shorten the coverage debate by checking the deductible on your homeowners policy. The deductible is the part you pay before your insurer pays anything, and it applies to the property coverage. You’ll find deductible information on the declarations page of the policy. Homeowners insurance deductibles are either listed as fixed dollar amounts or as percentages of the total coverage on the dwelling. So if you insure the house for $200,000 with a 5 percent deductible, you would be on the hook for as much as $10,000 in out-of-pocket expenses before your deductible runs out and your insurance coverage kicks in. Even if the policy language covered a dead tree, you’d be subject to the deductible on your property coverage.
The policy has exclusions at the end of Section I for property coverage and Section II for liability coverage. Review these exclusions to see if the language specifically applies to your circumstances. Neglect is an exclusion under the standard homeowners policy. You’re required to take action to avoid a loss or save your property after a loss. Another exclusion is intentional loss. For example, if you poisoned the tree, you’ll find this exclusion assures that the insurer doesn’t pay.
A dead tree on your property invites insects, such as termites and carpenter ants, that like decaying wood. Neither the tree nor your home is covered by homeowners insurance. A dead tree will eventually fall and you’ll have to deal with it. You must pay the cost of removal if it falls on the ground. If it falls on the neighbor’s house, your insurance probably covers the damage to the house and provides an attorney to represent you in a lawsuit. It may also cover debris removal up to a set limit.
- National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies Online: Homeowners Should Review Policies
- Georgia Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner: Homeowner Insurance Frequently Asked Questions
- Alabama Department of Insurance: Insurance Forms
- New York State Department of Financial Services: Homeowners Insurance Resource Center -- Choosing a Policy
- SouthernStatesInsurance: Favorable Season for Insects Gives Georgia Homeowner’s New Worries
- Insure.com: Home Insurance Exclusions: What Your Policy Won't Cover
- The Wall Street Journal: Higher Deductibles Sting Homeowners
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
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