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.

Your Homeowner Insurance Policy Needs a Check Up

Everyone should have a periodic check up. Your life has changed, your body has changed so get a check up to make sure those changes aren’t putting you in the wrong direction for your health. Your homeowner’s insurance should also be checked up. Is it putting your finances in the wrong direction? Might you be able to lower your premiums? Are you over insured? Under insured? There’s only one way to find out.

Your insurance review should be done before it’s time to renew. You can find out if your coverage is appropriate and what changes, if any, are needed. Once you have a good idea of what you need and don’t need it’s also a good time to shop around. Insurance is a highly competitive business and we represent several carriers who can offer you the right coverage at the right price.

What type of coverage do you have?

There are different types,

  • Replacement cost covers you, up to your policy limits, for what it would take to rebuild your house and restore your belongings.

  • Extended replacement cost coverage is protection up to the policy limit then potentially more if necessary. Extended coverage can pay you for unexpected expenses like increases in construction costs.

  • Actual cash value takes into account the decrease in value over time. That’s the least expensive coverage but it also offers the least because you may get a fraction of what you bought the item for in the past.

How much coverage do you need?

You purchased your home five years ago and insured it for $400,000. Today, it’s worth $425,000. Just increasing your coverage to $425,000 may not be enough because if your home is a total loss and you need to rebuild it from the ground up your coverage needs to reflect that cost. Currently those in the construction trades are very busy. That means business is good and contractors may not be hungry for new business so they can charge more.

Can I lower my premiums?

If you accept a higher deductible, the amount you need to pay before the insurance coverage applies, the lower the exposure for the insurance company, the lower your premium. If you can absorb the cost of run of the mill losses and have coverage for major accidents or calamities, consider a higher deductible.

Your insurance company may also offer discounts to members of certain groups like AARP. Find out what discounts are available. You may also get a discount for alarms, dead bolt locks and buying multiple policies (such as life and auto) from the same carrier.

Insurance can be complicated and confusing. That’s why we’re here to answer your questions and make sure you get the right policy that’s the right fit for you, your family, your home and your budget. Contact us today so we can make sure your current policy appropriate and if not, how we can tailor it to your needs.