People have a mixed relationship with trees. On the one hand, trees provide beauty and shade – along with reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and providing much of the oxygen we breathe.
But let one fall on your house or bring your car to a sudden stop and suddenly trees become a problem.
Much of the damage trees can cause to property is often covered by insurance. Generally speaking, if a tree hits your home or other insured structure, your standard homeowners insurance policy covers the damage to the structure and its contents.
Properly selected, placed, and maintained trees can provide excellent wind protection for a house, which can reduce heating costs and noise from neighbors and traffic. By putting thought and energy into planting and maintenance, homeowners can reap these benefits while preventing much potential damage.
To minimize damage from your own trees, it’s important to maintain their health and properly prepare them for winter weather and storms.
While some trees don’t handle wind well, others can withstand some of the most powerful gusts. Blue River Restoration Services in Indianapolis recommends live oaks and maples, crepe myrtles, and cypress trees as “safe bets” when considering wind damage.
“These trees have strong roots to keep them in place and thick bark that supports them in windy conditions,” Blue River’s website says. It also recommends not to plant large shade trees within 12 feet of structures that could be damaged by tree roots.
“While most trees’ roots are not invasive enough to cause damage to your house or pavement, some will,” the website says. “Aspens, willows, American elms, and silver maples all have root systems that can stretch for acres. With these types of trees, there is no way to control their roots that can disrupt the foundation of your home.”
Tree roots don’t destroy the foundation but instead shift the soil under and around them, causing them to become unstable.
“Some homeowners deal with intrusive roots by grinding down or removing them,” Blue River says. “This can be expensive and is very harmful to the tree. Wounding a tree’s roots creates points of entry for pathogens, leaving a tree vulnerable to disease.”
A diseased tree is more likely to have branches that will break off and cause damage during high winds. Trees with inadequate root systems may blow over or break off at the ground line. A general rule is that you should not plant any trees within 20 feet of your house.
Insurance “what ifs?”
What happens if a neighbor’s tree falls on your house? You’ll need to file a claim with your insurance company. If negligence can be proved—such as a diseased tree or tree that wasn’t properly maintained — your company may try to collect from your neighbor’s policy. If that happens, you may be reimbursed for your deductible.
If a tree falls on your car, damage is covered under the comprehensive portion of your auto insurance policy.
Standard home insurance polices also provide coverage for damage to trees and shrubs due to fire, lightning, explosion, theft, aircraft, vehicles not owned by the resident, and vandalism Coverage is generally limited to about $500 for any one tree, shrub or plant.
For more Information:
Understanding Trees and Tree Maintenance (a Triple-I video)
Preventing Trees From Falling (a Triple-I video)