Trees are beautiful. Tall. Majestic. Green. And also very, very heavy. Which is why if a tree falls in the direction of your house it’s terrifying. Trees have the power to cause some pretty serious damage to your home—they’re not picky about which way they fall if a sudden storm or wind gust pops up. They’ll take your house down with them.
This is exactly why home insurance was invented—for situations involving toppling trees. Well, that and some other reasons. Anyways, the good news is that your homeowner’s insurance will cover damage done to your house by your formerly very pretty tree. Storms and lightning strikes are covered in most plans, so you’re good. You can file a claim and get your house fixed up good as new.
However, things are usually a bit more complicated than that. It’s one thing if it’s your tree and your house—that’s straightforward. But sometimes it doesn’t work out that way, so we’ve put together some information about some of the thornier situations you might encounter.
What if it’s not your tree?
Wait a second—that’s your neighbor’s tree that just took out a section of your home. Doesn’t that mean that you don’t have to deal with the insurance claim? Unfortunately, that’s a no. If it’s your home, it’s seen as being your responsibility, regardless of whether or not the tree was over the property line.
Yes, it’s frustrating that your neighbor’s insurance won’t cover it—it’s their tree, for goodness sake! But the important thing is that you’re covered and that the expenses will be paid. It might mean a bit more time on the phone and more paperwork for you, but that’s better than having a hole in your house!
What if it’s your tree and it hits your neighbor’s house?
Well, then it’s their insurance that will be handling the expenses. But take heed— if your neighbor can prove that you were aware that the destructive tree was diseased, hollow, or otherwise compromised and that you did nothing about it, you could be in trouble. There’s a chance that their insurance company could come after you to reimburse your neighbor for their deductible after they’ve repaired the damages to your neighbor’s house.
So be on the safe side and take care of any trees that could be problematic. It’s generally a good idea to have your property and trees checked about once a year. That way you know which trees, if any, have to be taken down (safely) before they fall down (not so safely.) If you did take measures to secure or maintain a tree and it fell anyways, be sure to hold onto documents that prove it.
What if a tree hits my car?
If your car was in the line of fire and took a hit, you’ll be going through your auto insurance to cover the damages, not your home insurance. So long as you have comprehensive insurance, you’ll only be out your deductible. Your insurance company will pay for the rest of the repairs.
What about my fence?
Like we said, trees aren’t picky about where they fall. They could go straight through your fence. The good news is that most policies will offer coverage for things like sheds or fences, although you might not have as much coverage for these as you do for your home.
Usually, policies have a limit in which they will cover your additional structures (like fences) for up to 10% of the cost of the coverage you have on your house.
Bottom line: What to do if a tree falls on your house
1. Safety first.
Get your family to a safe place. It’s a good idea to have an “emergency plan” in place for your family, including preparing a disaster kit full of things you’d need in case of an emergency.
Contact emergency services as soon as it’s safe to do so. They’ll be able to help you with next steps, and they might decide to send someone out to you to assess the situation. Don’t try to get on the roof of the house for a closer look. Leave that to the experts.
2. Contact your insurance company.
Your insurance provider will help you figure out what to do next. They will probably want you to contact a roofer so that they can protect any exposed areas from additional damage.
3. Take plenty of pictures.
When it’s safe to do so, get lots of photos of the damage. Take photos from lots of different places (to get various angles.) If you can, take both close-up shots and wider shots. These photos will help your insurance company as they review your claim. If you have a home inventory, that’ll help, too!
4. Get the roof fixed.
Have a roofing contractor come out to fix up your home. Do your research—it’s important to find one that you can trust.
Tip: It might be a good idea to do this research before anything bad happens so that you know who to call if something like this happens.
Somehow we tend to underestimate the amount of damage a tree can do. They seem harmless, just swaying in the breeze. But that can all change very quickly, and it’s good to be prepared for anything. We’re here to help, and answer any questions you may have about your coverage. Call us today at 513.984.5255!
This article originally appeared on Insurancehub.com