If a Tree Falls on Your House, Will Your Insurer Hear It?

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I.I.I. provides information about filing insurance claims for trees and shrubs

NEW YORK, August 15, 2007 – With homeowners spending billions of dollars a year on landscaping, it is important to have a firm understanding of the insurance implications of owning trees and shrubs, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

Americans spent $14 billion on do-it-yourself landscaping projects and tree and shrub care in 2006, according to the latest study by the National Gardening Association; total spending on landscape contracting and construction was over $13 billion.

“If a tree hits a home or other insured structure such as a detached garage, standard home insurance policies provide coverage for the damage the tree does to the structure and the contents within it,” said Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I. “Coverage is generally limited to trees felled by a windstorm, hail, weight of ice, snow or sleet.”

If a tree hits an insured structure, there will also be coverage for the cost of removing the tree, generally up to about $500 to $1,000—depending on the insurer and the policy purchased. Some insurance companies may also pay for the cost of removing a tree if the felled tree blocks a driveway or a ramp designed to assist the handicapped.

“In a situation where the felled tree was located on a neighbor’s property, the homeowner should file a claim with his or her own insurance company,” said Ms. Salvatore. “If the tree was in poor health or not properly maintained the policyholder’s insurer may try to collect from the neighbor’s insurer in a process called subrogation. If the insurer is successful, the homeowner may be reimbursed for the deductible.”

Cars damaged or destroyed by falling trees are covered under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy.

Standard home insurance polices also provide coverage for damage to trees and shrubs due to fire, lightning, explosion, theft, aircraft, vehicles not owned by the resident, vandalism and malicious mischief.

“Coverage for these disasters is generally limited to up to 5 percent of the amount of insurance on the structure of the house. Generally, most insurers will limit the coverage to about $500 for any one tree, shrub or plant. Vegetation grown for business purposes requires a separate business insurance policy,” noted Ms. Salvatore.

Additional insurance coverage for expensive landscaping is available from specialty insurers in the form of an endorsement to the homeowners policy.

For more information about insurance and creating and keeping a home inventory, go to the I.I.I. Web site: http://www.iii.org The I.I.I. is a nonprofit, communications organization supported by the insurance industry.