One of the most common Ohio homeowners insurance claims we encounter is a tree falling on a property. Of course, the first question we get is “Does my homeowners insurance cover the tree and/or its removal?”
The answer is- it depends. I know you hate that answer, but unfortunately, it’s true. To help you better understand how a homeowners insurance policy covers fallen trees, following are several claim examples. Hopefully these examples will give you a better idea of when your homeowners insurance will provide coverage and when it won’t.
Note: Another common question we receive concerns who’s responsible for the tree when it ends up in a neighboring property. This is very common when properties are near each other. You can read a separate article that answers this question.
Claim Example 1- A tree falls and hits your house, causing damage to the house
This is usually pretty straightforward. The carriers we represent (and I’m assuming most others), will provide coverage to remove the tree if it’s resting against a house. The dollar amount to remove the tree would simply be included in the total cost of the claim. Of course, this is all subject to your deductible- so if the house damage + tree removal doesn’t exceed that deductible, you don’t have a claim.
What if the tree hits the house, then falls to the ground? You should still get coverage for repair + tree removal. Our experience has shown that provided the tree hits a covered building, then the removal would be included with the total claim cost.
Claim Example 2- A tree falls on your property, but doesn’t hit a covered building (house, garage, etc.)
This is where it gets a little tricky. Each company is a little different, but here are a few options you may see:
- A policy MAY include debris removal (if the tree doesn’t hit a covered building) within the policy contract itself. There’s usually a maximum amount given with a per tree limit and the coverage may only apply for certain perils. Perils are the causes of a loss. Here’s an example of the wording from one of our companies:
We will also pay up to $1,000 per “occurrence” with a limit of $500 per tree for the removal of fallen trees on the “residence premises” if loss is caused by windstorm, hail or weight of ice, snow or sleet even when covered property is not damaged.
- If not included in the actual policy, coverage for this situation may be available by endorsement. It’s usually called Debris Removal or Storm Cleanup. It’s pretty inexpensive.
Some key items to note in this situation:
- Commercially grown trees are normally excluded- such as those grown on a tree farm or nursery to sell to others (business).
- There may be a distance limit as well- for example, the tree must be within 300 feet of the insured residence.
- Your deductible may apply in this situation as well.
Again, it’s worth it to have a conversation with your insurance company/agent to see what options are available for debris removal if the tree does NOT fall on a covered building.
Claim Example 3- A tree falls on a building other than your house
An Ohio homeowners insurance policy is a package policy, meaning it covers more than just your house. So let’s say the tree falls onto your detached garage and damages it. Since the Garage is considered an Other Structure (Coverage B of the homeowners policy), then it should work in a similar fashion as described in the first example.
An exception would be if the building was EXCLUDED from the policy. Exclusion = no coverage. However, most standard homeowners insurance policies for owner-occupied homes do have Coverage B. When in doubt, talk to your insurance company or agent.
What if I have a condo instead of a house?
Many condo agreements state that you are responsible for the walls inward, while the condo association is responsible for the walls outward. So, following this logic, it would make sense that the condo association insurance policy would respond to any debris removal. And depending on the severity, they may even decide to pay out of pocket.
However, don’t make assumptions. Read your condo agreement or ask for clarification from the association so you know what you’re responsible for and what the association is responsible for. Then you can go to your insurance company to see about getting coverage.
What’s the major takeaway here?
It’s a safe bet that if a tree falls on your house, there would be coverage for the debris removal. As mentioned before, the deductible applies, so it’s certainly possible total damage + tree removal could be less than your deductible.
If the tree just falls and doesn’t hit a covered building, there MAY be some coverage for the debris removal. It will depend on what’s available in the policy automatically, whether additional endorsements are part of the policy and what was the cause of the loss.
Your best course of action is to ask your agent or insurance company BEFORE the loss happens- Are fallen tree and debris removal covered under my homeowners policy? If not, ask how you can get coverage. There are often endorsements you can add to your policy to get you this coverage. Since there are literally 1000s of insurance policy contracts, it’s best to go straight to the source for a definitive answer.