What’s the sound of one tree falling?
In insurance cliche bingo, “A tree fell on my house,” comes right after, “Why does my insurance go up after a wreck?” Both will get you a letter on your card (your bingo card… it’s from the metaphor… oh nevermind). I won’t get into the second cliche right now (short answer is, well, because you got into a wreck and you’re more likely to get into another one), but I will get into the whole tree thing. Especially because we’ve had some pretty bad weather, and trees falling are on everyone’s mind.
So, is it covered? YES. A tree falling on a house is covered under a homeowners policy.
But that lightning started over the Johnson’s house.
When a Tree is Like Lightning
Let’s say you have a house – if you’re reading this then you probably do. There is a tree in your neighbor’s yard, and a big gust of wind blows this ancient, deciduous beast over and onto your home. You and your neighbor rush out, frantic, and the first thing your neighbor helpfully says is this: “That’s on your property. It’s not my fault.”
Property lines are a tricky thing, and advice on how they work would be beyond the scope of this blog. Check your deed or your local government for more information on that. Also, talk to your neighbor, and work things out before something happens. Cooperation is always preferable to finger-pointing.
But the point is this – you can try and blame your neighbor all you want. But your neighbor is right.
When a tree falls, the confusion about coverage comes from the fact that a tree is attached to the ground. “Duh,” you probably say. But to an insurance company, where the tree is attached doesn’t matter. A tree hitting your home is an occurrence that happens occasionally, and usually without fault or neglect. So instead of thinking about where the tree came from, think of a tree the same way you think about lightning. You don’t worry about who’s house the lightning formed above if it hits yours – lightning strikes, no matter where it appears, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. Wind blows trees down, and they fall. There is no fault involved.
Bend, don’t break.
Does it matter how it fell?
YES. As with all claims, how something happened is of paramount importance to if it is covered. If wind blows a tree down in your yard and it hits your house, your homeowners insurance will cover it as wind is covered by your policy. If you are excited about your new monster chainsaw and your way of showing off to your buddies is to go after that old oak in the corner of your lot, and you watch in horror as it slowly glides down onto your neighbors roof – that’s probably covered. Like I said earlier, stuff happens. But in the above instance, it’s a matter of negligence- especially criminal negligence.
Hey y’all watch ‘is.
If you have been drinking all afternoon when you cut down the tree, you leave yourself open to a lawsuit from your neighbor due to negligence. Again, this is not legal advice, but anyone can sue you for anything, so be wary for putting yourselves in situations where you could be liable for damages. But remember what we learned in Homeowners 101 – the liability part of your policy will still cover you, even if there are legal troubles.
The worst situation is when the negligence is criminal, or illegal. If you cut down a tree purposefully, intentionally hitting your neighbor’s house, all because his dog tore up your prize rose bush, well, that’s a different story. Insurance does not cover criminal acts, period. Luckily for us, we almost never see intentional tree attacks. They’re really heavy.
If you have questions, reach out and check with us – we’d be happy to walk you through your coverages. And if you don’t have coverage on your home, call us ASAP and let us help you get the protection you deserve.