Trees are a beautiful addition to your landscaping but can also cause problems for homeowners. Here are some helpful tips when dealing with tree damage to your property or your neighbors’ property.
Whose Tree Is It?
- Before you can determine who is liable for damage caused by a falling tree or branch, you need to determine who actually owns the tree: If the trunk of the tree is on your property, you own it. If the trunk of the tree is on your neighbor’s property, they own it.1
Who Is Responsible for Fallen Tree Damage?
- If your tree or any part of it falls on your neighbors’ property and damages it through no fault of your own (such as from weather events or an “act of God”), you may not be responsible. Your neighbors will then have to file a claim with their own insurer to be reimbursed for their loss.
- If a tree from your yard causes damage to another’s property, it’s the responsibility of that person to report a claim to his or her insurer.2
- In addition, your neighbor’s insurer would pay if you were cutting down your tree and it accidentally fell on their house, for example. You could be liable, though, if it were proven that you were negligent in the manner in which you cut down the tree.
- You also may be legally liable if a tree or branch falls and causes damage as a result of your neglect in taking care of the tree, such as if dead tree or rotting branch falls and you had previous knowledge of its unhealthy condition.3
- If a city-owned tree damages your property, call your local municipality as soon as possible to see what they suggest. They will likely send out someone to have it removed. They may also have to pay for your damages if they had prior notice that the tree was unhealthy.4
- If the tree was your neighbor’s, your insurer might make a claim with the neighbor’s insurer to cover its costs.5
Is Damage to Other Landscaping Covered?
- If other landscaping, such as shrubs or trees, was damaged by your neighbor’s falling tree, but no structures were harmed, you will be responsible for debris removal on your property. Your homeowners policy may have a specific dollar limit to replace each damaged plant, but only if the damage was caused by things such as lightning or windstorms, or damage caused by people outside your household, such as through vandalism or a car crash.6
Tree Damage to Cars
- If another person’s tree falls on your car and you have comprehensive auto coverage, your car insurance should pay for the damage. If you lack comprehensive coverage, you’ll have to prove your neighbor was negligent.7
- If your tree falls on someone else’s car, the car owner’s insurance should cover the car damage if they have comprehensive coverage.
Finally, remember to review your insurance policy carefully and speak with your independent insurance agent to clarify any questions on coverages you have.
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1, 3. NOLO.com
4, 7. Precision Tree