If My Neighbor’s Tree Damages My House, Whose Insurance Pays for It?

If you think it’s your neighbor’s insurance, for most cases, you would be wrong. Generally if a tree from your neighbor’s property falls and damages your home or blocks your driveway, you would file an insurance claim on your own policy and your normal deductible would apply. While that may seem unfair the reverse would apply if your tree fell on your neighbors property.  

Whatever the case there are exceptions.

·         If a tree is diseased, damaged, dead or dying and in danger of falling and its owner is asked by a neighbor to remove it, the owner refuses and the tree falls on the house and damage is done. That would be a situation where the tree owner could be found negligent and liable for damages.

·         Ideally a letter should be sent to the tree owner by certified mail with a copy kept by the sender. A written opinion from an arborist and photos of the tree would help.

·         In this case the tree owner’s insurance may cover all the costs (including clean up costs) and there would be no deductible.

In New Jersey almost all properties have one or two trees on them. This combined with extreme weather, makes tree damage a frequent hazard. Heavy, wet snow and ice can result in tree limbs coming down. Heavy rain and strong winds could uproot a tree and cause it to topple over. Coverage for damage due to a tree falling is provided under most homeowners policies when it occurs because of a storm, wind or lightning.

If the neighbor’s tree falls in your yard and there is no damage to any insured structures or blocking of a driveway, insurance normally doesn’t pay for clean up costs.

If shrubs and other plants are damaged or destroyed there may or may not be coverage.

·         Coverage doesn’t usually apply for wind damage, but

·         Fire, lightning, vandalism and theft normally are covered (often limited to 5% of the total of the insured value of your house up to $500 per tree or plant).

If your vehicle is damaged because of a fallen tree,

·         The damage could be paid for if you have comprehensive coverage on your auto policy

·         If you drive into a tree or limb, covering the costs of damage could be from your collision insurance.

If someone else drives off the road and severely damages your trees or shrubs, the vehicle owner’s auto insurance should cover the damage. If you drive into your own trees or shrubs however, your auto policy probably won’t cover the costs.