If my tree falls on my neighbor’s house, and there’s nobody around to hear it…

If my tree falls on my neighbor’s house, and there’s nobody around to hear it…

…Does my insurance pay?

We get this question a lot!

OK, not exactly THAT question, but when fall and summer storms get those mighty oak trees swaying, our phones start ringing, and about half of the people we talk to don’t like the answer.

Many people feel that a homeowner with a large tree should assume Liability when that tree blows over and damages their property. Unfortunately, in order for the homeowner to be Liable they need to be negligent, and that requires a Breach of Duty.  Generally speaking, you can’t negligently own or use a tree, unless you are cutting it down in the general direct of your neighbor’s house, or setting it on fire, or something like that.

jodi-houseSo what happens when my neighbor’s tree falls on my house in a storm?

Simple – your homeowners insurance pays for the property claim less your deductible.  Your neighbor’s policy MAY pay to clean up the tree, but they’re not going to pay for the damage to your house.

If the tree falls on your car, its pretty much the same story.  Your auto insurance will pay for the property damage to your car, and may actually pay to get the tree off your call – though the auto policy won’t pay to remove the tree debris that doesn’t affect the vehicle.

What if my own tree falls down and hits my neighbor’s house?

Generally speaking, you’re off the hook.  Your policy may pay to clean up the tree, within the policy limits for that type of coverage (usually a max of $500 per tree).  Again, you are not negligent, so you don’t have any liability.  Its hard to negligently own or use a tree.

If your tree falls down and hits nothing, no fence or shed or house, then you may be on your own entirely. Some policies pay for clean up and renewal of trees, regardless of property damage, but other policies only pay for tree removal when the fallen tree hits insured property.

Tree Removal Recap

Your homeowners insurance policy pays property damage and personal liability claims. When a tree falls on your property, your homeowners insurance responds to the damage and pays the claim less the deductible. If your neighbor’s tree falls on your house, the only portion of their policy that would respond is the personal liability part of their homeowners insurance. In order for your neighbor to be liable they must be negligent in their owning or use of their tree.  Negligent use of a tree is pretty rare – the only logical example I can think of is when they cut the tree down and it lands on your home.  When the wind blows the tree or branches down, it’s nobody’s fault!

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