Here’s a cliché, but common insurance question:
“Does insurance cover my roof if my neighbor’s tree falls on it?”
Fences make great neighbors. Anyone who has had neighbors (which is most of us) can agree that it is difficult to always get along with the people we live next to.
But what happens when an annoying neighbor’s tree falls and causes damage to your property?
You know the one; the giant oak tree that has limbs hanging over your garage that they never seem to notice themselves.
Well, you’ve predicted it for years. “Some day that #*@!$%^ tree is going to fall onto the garage”…and guess what? It happened. So what’s next?
Protect Your “Stuff”
First, you need to be sure to make an effort to ensure your property is not damaged any further. Back your cars out of the garage…make sure a gas can wasn’t knocked over and spilling onto oily rags, etc.
Your homeowner’s insurance policy dictates that you attempt to mitigate further losses by taking “reasonable” action to protect your stuff.
Tip: Don’t run into a burning house to save your Boz Scaggs CD collection. That would not be “reasonable.”
Call YOUR Insurance Agent
You also need to call your insurance agent to report the damage to your home. I know, it’s not “your fault,” and you don’t want to file an insurance claim and get drilled by the nasty insurance company because your neighbor’s a bum.
Don’t worry about that part yet. At this point, you’ll be happy your insurance company is on your side.
Remember, insurance companies have deep pockets and are willing to go to bat for you, in court, if necessary.
Can You Prove Negligence?
If this is truly negligence on your neighbor’s behalf, you don’t have a care in the world…besides getting your garage fixed.
But the only way for your neighbor’s insurance policy to respond to this type of loss is to prove negligence on the neighbor’s behalf. This is achieved by documenting your concerns if the tree looks to be overhanging your property and at risk of collapsing – BEFORE the loss occurs.
You would be responsible to prove that you attempted to get the neighbor to take care of the troublesome tree prior to the loss. Without this sort of “backup,” the tree falling is simply an “Act of God” and not a covered event.
You May Have to Bite the Bullet
In most cases, trees and/or limbs fall without any prior warning, regardless of whether they are in bad shape or in perfect condition, thanks to particularly bad storms. And most of us try not to pester our neighbors and simply don’t have time to inspect trees and “document” our findings year round.
Does that mean we must live in fear? Not exactly.
A properly endorsed homeowners insurance policy may include coverage for fallen tree limbs. You’ll need to read your policy and/or contact your current insurer to determine if you have this particular coverage.
You would still have to file a claim in this instance, but your cost for doing so (in the form of future higher insurance premiums) may be much less than the cost to repair your damaged property…and that’s what insurance is for.
*Keep in mind that with all insurance claims questions, answers may vary widely based on insurance company and/or state in which you reside. Be sure to contact your claims adjuster for specifics.