When the Bough Breaks...or the Whole Tree Falls

| November 02, 2018

My neighbor's tree fell into my yard...now what?

The quick answer, if you have homeowner insurance is "check with your agent."  Homeowner insurance policies usually provide coverage for damage done to your home or other structures from a fallen tree, regardless of who owned the tree.

What about the cost to remove the tree, you ask? If there was damage to your home or other structures, most policies will pay up to $500 to remove the tree debris that is necessary to access the damaged property. If there was no damage to your property, some insurance policies, like those written by Nationwide Insurance in Pennsylvania, will pay up to $500 for tree debris removal. Refer to your policy for details and make sure to check under the "Additional Property Coverage" section.

Isn't my neighbor responsible to pay for the damage and debris removal? Generally, no. If your neighbor was aware the tree was in danger of falling, they may be held liable for the damage that occurred. Was the tree dead? Decayed? Leaning precariously? Was you neighbor aware of the condition of the tree? These are some of the questions a claim adjuster may want to ask in order to determine if there is a basis to recover the claim payment and your deductible (a process known as subrogation). That's right, your deductible will most likely be applied to the loss, so you may have some out of pocket costs to get the tree removed.

You say it doesn't seem fair that you should have to pay because of something that your neighbor caused? Take a look at the reverse situation. You have a perfectly healthy tree in your yard, wind knocks it down onto your neighbor's house. Why should you have to pay? You didn't do anything wrong. You were not negligent. You didn't cause the wind. You didn't cause the tree to fall. You didn't cause the damage to your neighbor's property.  And you didn't choose your neighbor's super high deductible, either!

That brings me to my last point. If you have trees on your property, make sure to periodically inspect them. If they do present a danger, have them trimmed or removed. This will help you avoid a situation where you are found to be liable for damages to your neighbors property and prevent damage to your own property.

To summarize, if your neighbor's tree falls onto your property, your homeowner insurance policy will most likely provide coverage if the cost exceeds your deductible. If your tree falls into the neighbor's property, hopefully they have a policy as good as yours!

DISCLAIMER The information provided is not legal or professional advice. Questions regarding your coverage should be discussed with your insurance professional. Your insurance policy will detail the coverage provided by your insurance carrier. Insurance policies can differ among carriers and states.