Trees — not only do they convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, but they also add a certain level of grace to any property. Unfortunately, while most trees are sturdy, strong winds and storms can cause them to topple over. Such a scenario can bring distress to homeowners, especially when it comes to shouldering the responsibility — both financial and physical. So if a tree falls on a house, who should pay for it?
If a Tree Falls on a House, Who Pays?
Neighbors often find themselves in a sticky situation when a tree from one resident’s property falls and lands on the adjoining resident’s property. Boundaries are a contentious topic within the homeowners association sphere, so disputes are bound to arise. Issues regarding overhanging branches and a tree falling on houses have become commonplace.
The question has been asked many times: If a neighbor’s tree fell on my house, who should be responsible for the damages? The answer depends on the situation. The first thing you should do is to check the governing documents for an HOA tree policy.
If it states in your governing documents that the association is responsible for damages caused by a fallen tree — even if that tree was on a homeowner’s property — then the HOA should take on that burden. If no such stipulation exists in your governing documents, then, in general, the association is responsible for the maintenance and repair of all common areas and homeowners are responsible for their own properties.
In terms of ownership, a tree is considered yours if its trunk is located entirely on your property, regardless of overhanging branches. If the trunk is shared by two homeowners, it is considered a boundary tree. While ownership is important, it usually does not matter when it comes to who should take responsibility for fallen tree damage.
In the case of a neighbor’s tree falling on your house, you should check with your insurance provider to help cover the damages. The neighbor is not typically responsible for a fallen tree — even if they own it — unless there was negligence on their part. You may ask, “What about if the neighbor’s tree fell on my fence?” In this case, the same general rule applies.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Tree Damage?
Homeowners insurance is essential to any and all property owners. This type of insurance safeguards your house as well as other property structures you own.
This includes structures like a shed or fence. With homeowners insurance, you can rest easy knowing your property is protected in case of loss or damage.
While insurance does offer you some level of defense against loss or damage, it does not cover every kind. For instance, homeowners insurance does not typically cover loss or damage that was directly and intentionally caused. In most cases, insurance only covers loss or damage brought on by perils like a storm or the wind.
With this in mind, does homeowners insurance cover fallen trees? It still depends. When a tree falls on a house, the circumstance must be examined. If the tree was in good condition and was knocked over by strong winds, most insurance providers will shoulder the repairs needed on your home or any other property structure. However, if the tree was in poor health, to begin with, your insurance provider could argue that there was negligence on your part and refuse to cover damages.
How Much Does Homeowners Insurance Cover?
Now that you have settled whether or not tree damage is covered by your insurance, you may be wondering how much exactly is covered. The answer to this depends on your coverage limit, which is the maximum amount your insurance provider will pay for a claim.
Coverage limits vary from policy to policy, and there is likely a different limit for your house and other property structures.
If you have a coverage limit of $200,000 on your house, your provider can should up to that amount in repairs should a tree fall on your house. You will also need to pay your share of the claim, though. If you want to have a higher coverage limit, make sure you set it that way when you first purchase your policy. You may also contact your provider if you want to increase your coverage limit on an existing policy.
What If a Tree Falls on a House and Causes No Damage?
Let’s say a tree falls and does not damage anything at all, causing no structural damage to the house or any other property structures. You do not need to repair anything.
While this type of situation is ideal, it is not completely problem-free. You will still need to take care of tree debris, which can be both a hassle and time-consuming.
A standard homeowners insurance policy usually will not cover the removal of tree debris, which means you will have to take care of the cleanup out-of-pocket. There could be an exception, though. While it does not apply to all, your insurance provider may shoulder a portion (or all) of the removal cost if the tree becomes a roadblock. For instance, your insurance company might cover tree debris removal if the fallen tree is blocking a driveway.
When it comes to removing tree debris, the case differs when there is loss or damage. If a tree falls on your house and does cause damage, insurance companies normally cover the cost of tree debris removal in addition to shouldering repairs to your home and property structures.
Handle Fallen Trees the Right Way
The case of fallen trees is often a tricky subject to take on, particularly in a homeowners association. If you have a tree on your property, it is important to keep it healthy and well-maintained so that the risk of it toppling over is reduced. As a homeowner, that should be one of your responsibilities. For an otherwise healthy tree that is knocked down by perils, you must turn to your homeowners insurance.
Now that you know what can happen when a tree falls on a house, you are equipped to handle the situation should it arise. But, if you or your association runs into problems with fallen trees or tree damage, do not hesitate to call an HOA management company like us for help.
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