When we have a fallen tree, the first question that generally comes to mind is will the home owner’s insurance company cover the cost of removal and the damages caused?
For example, let’s say a tree fell on your roof. When the tree fell on your house did it create a hole in your roof? If so, you definitely need to get the tree removed and have a tarp installed over the holes. The insurance companies really want you to act expediently on this. Why? Supposed to sit around and wait for estimate after estimate to save them a few hundred dollars. What good does that do when a rain storm comes in and dumps 100 gallons worth of water onto your wooden floor? Then in process of trying to get estimates, the floor and the wiring gets ruined and cost the insurance company another 50 or $60,000. Instead, it’s much better to have a tree service remove the tree, and quickly install a tarp to secure and ensure that your house stays dry and that you can move to the next phase of operation of rebuilding.
Many home owners ask: Do I need to wait for an adjuster?
In most cases no. Typically when a tree falls on a house you’re not the only one. Weather conditions have caused trees all around your area or all around your state or in some cases multiple states to come crashing down. In cases like these, there simply are not enough adjusters to be able to address the needs of the insurance in a quickly and efficient manner.
Another common questions is: Do I have to get three estimates?
In almost all cases no! Most specifically if you are in a hazardous situation, if a heavy tree is perched in elevated in a way that has been destabilized in threatening someone, by all means get the tree into a safe condition. Keeping people safe is the most important thing, not only from a moral and human perspective, but also from a business perspective. The last thing that an insurance company wants is for you to feel as if they are trying to coerce you to get estimates, and then in that time frame, the tree slip and fall on someone, a child, a dog, etc. They do not want this liability. Something really important to keep in mind is the “Reasonable and Customary charges”. Generally speaking, as long as the charges are “reasonable and customary”, your insurance company will cover them.
Finally, people want to know: Will my insurance company cover?
As a general rule, typical insurance policies are a legal and binding contract between the insured and the insurance company to cover what is known as “modified structures” on the property. What is a modified structure? Examples could be your house, garage, storage shed outside, fence, deck, patio, even a raised garden bed or a child’s playset. Anything that is permanently affixed to the ground is typically considered a modified structure on the property and is typically covered under homeowners insurance if a tree falls on it. However, it’s important to note that there are some specific stipulations for this insurance to kick in as noted below:
Did the tree strike a modified structure on the property? If the tree fell into the middle of your back yard and did not fall onto a modified structure on the property, typically speaking there will be no coverage for your tree work. Most insurance policies only cover modified structures on the property. Unless you have an extra “tree rider” on the policy which explicitly covers damage to your trees, then likely unless the tree hit something, it will not be covered.
Was there damage? typically speaking, insurance companies are ensuring your property in its original condition. If a tree lightly brushes up against the house, but it did not cause any damage, the insurance company may deny coverage of it. However, please keep in mind that damage is very subjective. We typically don’t think of damaged houses in the same way that we do toward shiny painted cars. If someone opened their door and did your paint job on your car, you would consider that damage. If a tree slides across your roof and lightly scrapes some of the granulars off of a single, technically speaking, this is damaged. The insurance company would likely have a legal and binding contract to replace that one single shingle, and thus would be legally obligated to remove the tree first in order to access that shingle.
Line items that your insurance company will typically cover for a tree that has fallen on a structure.
1. Removal of a fallen tree off of a structure
2. Hauling of the tree’s debris off site.