Who Pays for Tree Damage to My Property?
Posted in General on October 7, 2016
After a tropical storm or hurricane, homeowners are often left with catastrophic damage to their property by falling trees. The wind gusts generated by storms will often cause trees to fall onto nearby structures and cause severe damage. Unfortunately, the damage doesn’t stop there – once a tree falls on the structure, the usual result is a large opening in the roof, windows or side walls. These new openings can then allow rain, wind or other elements into the home and cause skyrocketing damage.
The question then becomes, who is responsible for the cost of removing these fallen trees and paying for the damage caused to your home? The clear and concise answer is – it depends.
Although you should always consult with a qualified property insurance claim attorney when placing a significant property damage claim, the following is a synopsis of several scenarios and an analysis of who would be obligated for the cost of repair under each set of circumstances.
What If My Tree Falls on My Home?
If a tree on your property falls and causes damage to your home, your homeowner’s insurance policy should provide coverage for this loss. The usual policy of homeowners insurance is referred to as an all-risks policy of insurance, and such policy will provide coverage for all losses that are not specifically excluded by the terms of the policy. Since very few policies in Florida exclude coverage for falling trees, you should be able to get coverage for this loss from your own homeowner’s insurance company.
But, be aware that insurance companies will often try to avoid providing coverage for this loss by asserting that the tree was diseased, rotting, or otherwise imminently ready to fall even without the storm’s encouragement. In this scenario, the insurance company may try to claim that the tree’s falling was due to a maintenance issue and that therefore, they should not be responsible for providing coverage for the loss.
What If My Neighbor’s Tree Falls on My Home?
If your neighbor’s tree falls on your home, the analysis is the same as above. Your own homeowner’s insurance policy should provide coverage for the loss. The location or ownership of the tree does not matter for this analysis – your homeowner’s insurance policy should provide coverage either way.
Interestingly, Florida law does not hold the neighbor liable if a tree from the neighbor’s property falls on your home. Florida law deems this to be an “act of God” and therefore, the neighbor is not usually liable to you for this damage. Of course, if it could be shown that the neighbor’s tree was diseased, rotting, or otherwise ready to fall down, the neighbor could then be held liable for your damages. In that scenario, your neighbor’s tree would constitute a safety hazard and should have been taken care of by your neighbor prior to causing damage to your home.
What If A Tree Falls Down and Does Not Cause Damage, But Needs To Be Removed?
In general, your homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover the cost of removing trees that have fallen on your property. Your homeowner’s insurance only covers damage to your actual structure, and not any damage which may occur to or on your property. Therefore, if a tree falls on your property and does not cause any damage to your home or structure, you will be responsible for the cost of removing the fallen tree.
If your tree falls into the street, many municipalities will cover the cost of removing the fallen tree from the roadway, but you will remain obligated to cover the cost of removing any remaining amount of the tree from your property.
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