Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Tree Damage?

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  • Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Tree Damage?

Since tree roots are largely out of sight, it can be easy to forget about them. But, if you’re not attentive, roots from trees on or around your property can damage the structure of your home in a few ways.

Trees can be transformed from beautiful features of your yard to costly headaches when they start interfering with your house unexpectedly. Since homeowners insurance covers your property in a variety of ways, it’s fair to wonder if, when, and how your insurance covers tree and tree root damage. Let’s take a closer look.

But first, a bit of a note. This article will go over if and when damage trees do to your property is covered. If you’re looking for answers to how insurance would reimburse you for valuable trees or plants on your property that have suffered damage, read here.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Tree Damage?

Yes, homeowners insurance policies usually cover tree damage to your property as long as the tree was knocked over by a covered peril and not unhealthy or neglected beforehand. 

For an insurer to cover tree damage, the tree typically needs to have been knocked over by a covered peril. As far as trees are concerned, this would commonly mean the tree had to be affected by high winds from a storm, like a hurricane or hail storm. You may also be covered if tree damage originates from a lightning strike or fire.

These scenarios are the most likely, but you could also be covered for a more freak accident. For instance, if someone drove a car into a tree on your property, and that tree then collapsed onto your house, your insurer can still cover the damage. When it comes to tree insurance coverage, like with most other forms of damage, your provider tends to kick in when something “sudden or accidental” damages your property.

This stipulation for sudden or accidental damage also explains why a rotted or diseased tree falling over on its own might not be covered. Your insurer could contend that had you taken care of the tree, it wouldn’t have collapsed. Insurance companies expect policyholders to perform appropriate upkeep of their properties. Additionally, a tree that your provider may have previously warned you could be dangerous may not be eligible for coverage if it becomes a problem. 

On a positive note, even if a tree that fell wasn’t on your property, you could be covered. Insurers should still cover home damage a fallen tree causes if the tree originated from your neighbor’s yard or city property. As long as it was knocked over by a covered peril, you should be good to go.

Keep in mind, though, that your insurer may have some limits on tree debris removal. The damage it causes could be fully covered, but insurers often cap the amount they’re willing to pay for the removal of the tree. It depends on your policy, but it might be safe to expect anywhere between $500 to $1,000 for getting rid of the tree itself. 

How Homeowners Insurance Covers Fallen Trees

How your insurance reimburses you for fallen trees depends on what was damaged. If the tree fell on your home, you’d likely be able to receive more money than if the tree fell on other structures on your property.

Homeowners insurance is divided into different aspects of coverage depending on the financial loss involved. If the structure of your house is damaged, including the walls, roof, windows, or floors, your insurance will cover you according to your dwelling coverage.

Dwelling coverage is the basis of your home’s replacement value. As such, it has the highest property limits in your policy. Other structures of your property that aren’t your primary residence, such as detached garages and sheds, and features like fences and docks, are usually only covered up to 10% of your dwelling coverage. 

So, if a tree falls on an “other structure” on your property, you may only receive up to your other structure limit in your policy, which may not cover all the damage in some cases. For example, let’s say your home is worth $200,000. Your other structures limit is 10% of your dwelling coverage, making it $20,000.  If a tree falls onto your pool and back deck and causes $30,000 worth of damage, your insurer would only be able to provide a maximum of $20,000, leaving you on the hook for at least $10,000.

Also, if a tree falls on your property and doesn’t damage anything at all or causes damage lower than your deductible, your insurer likely won’t help you out unless the tree blocks your driveway and prevents you from coming or going in your car.

Does Insurance Cover Tree Root Damage?

Homeowners insurance won’t usually cover tree root damage to your house. Insurers expect you to perform routine maintenance on your home to keep it in running order and avoid potential claim-causing problems. Tree roots grow slowly, and an insurer typically believes that the damage they cause should be prevented by a homeowner performing the necessary upkeep of their property.

Tree roots usually damage your home in one of two ways: infiltrating and causing problems in your sewer line, or damaging your foundation. Sadly, both types may be excluded by your policy. We mentioned how insurers sometimes cover damage from whole trees or their branches. But, when it comes to roots, they aren’t typically mentioned in your homeowners insurance policy.

Tree Roots and Foundation Damage Insurance Claims

Tree roots can encroach under your home and shift the foundation, which can, in turn, damage your floor, walls, and more. Unfortunately, tree root damage to your foundation isn’t usually covered. It happens gradually, and your insurer may believe you could’ve prevented it.

Foundation damage that’s covered by your home insurance must be caused by a covered peril in your policy. Damage from covered perils is often caused suddenly, accidentally, or by a natural disaster. Examples of covered perils are fires, hurricanes, and burst pipes.

Damage from tree roots isn’t a covered peril because tree roots don’t grow suddenly or accidentally. Tree roots often need to grow uninhibited for quite a while before reaching and then damaging your foundation. Your insurer will likely contend that had you been performing proper preventative maintenance on your property, you could’ve prevented the roots from damaging your foundation. It didn’t suddenly happen.

Additionally, tree roots may not directly damage your foundation even when it seems like it. Instead, they may alter the soil around your foundation which can cause it to shift or crack. Erosion and earth movements are typically excluded by name in most homeowners insurance policies, so you may want to consider this, too, before filing for a home insurance claim for tree root foundation damage.

When you’re getting quotes, an insurance company might ask you if you have any large trees on your property. They do this to avoid potential problems with trees and tree roots in the future, and it could affect your ability to get coverage.

While having a large, elegant tree on your property may add to its curb appeal and even have sentimental value, providers may consider them risks. Insurance companies do what they can to mitigate risk as much as possible.

You also may not be covered if a tree damaging your property isn’t yours – it could be your neighbor’s. In this case, your best bet would be to consult your neighbor and try to settle the matter with him or her. 

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Tree Roots in Sewer Line?

Tree roots can also interfere with your sewer lines. Most home insurance policies won’t cover tree roots damaging sewer lines, but you may be covered if the tree roots cause a sewage backup that damages your house’s interior or exterior.

As with tree roots affecting your foundation, tree roots growing into sewer lines happens gradually, too. Insurers tend not to cover damage that happens over an extended time.

Also, if a tree root grew into a sewer line that was already cracked, your carrier may contend that you should’ve fixed the crack, a home maintenance issue, so the root wouldn’t have been able to grow inside of it in the first place.

However, if your policy covers sewage backup, your insurer may reimburse you for damage a tree root causes if it backs up your drains and causes water damage in your home. Most providers offer sewage backup or water backup endorsements to homeowners policies. 

For a relatively small added cost every year, you could be covered for tens of thousands of dollars if water backed up from clogged drains or sewer pipes damages the structure of your home or your personal property. Water damage by a blockage from tree roots is often covered by these backup endorsements.

Keep in mind that with such endorsements, the damage to your home would be covered, but the damage to fix the sewer pipe and tree roots may not be. Also, be aware of your deductible. If your home insurance deductible is higher than the amount of damage a water backup caused, you shouldn’t file a claim because your provider won’t reimburse you. You’d have to pay out of pocket.

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The editorial content on Clovered’s website is meant to be informational material and should not be considered legal advice.

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