A dead tree can cause a hazard on your property or your neighbors' property. During storms, limbs can break off and fall, or the entire tree can be uprooted and fall on your house, garage or car. Trees on your property can also fall and damage your neighbors' assets. In certain cases, your homeowners insurance will cover damage caused by a dead tree.
Standard Homeowners Coverage
Homeowners insurance covers most costs of damage to your home caused by events over which you have no control. There are two basic types of coverage: loss of assets and loss of use. The policy pays you to replace the assets damaged or destroyed and may also reimburse you if you have to stay at a hotel or incur other costs because you can't use your home. If a dead tree falls on your house or car, causing damage, your policy may pay to fix it.
Standing Dead Trees
Most homeowners policies will not cover the cost to cut down a dead tree while it is still standing. The insurance will only kick in if the tree falls and causes damage. However, it still makes sense to pay to take the tree down because it may also damage your neighbor's property. A dead tree can also fall on people, causing injury of even death in some cases. An arborist will remove the tree piecemeal with a chainsaw and a bucket truck.
Once the tree has fallen and caused damage, call the insurance company as soon as possible. The company will send out an assessor who will place a value on the amount of damage caused and will assess whether you can remain in the house until the repairs have been made. If there are ongoing safety issues, you will not be allowed to stay in the house and may have to find short-term housing. Once the insurance company has documented the extent of the damage, it will coordinate tree removal and repair efforts. If the dead tree is still in the road, the insurance company will bring in a team to clear it away and cut it up.
If a dead tree on your property falls and damages your neighbor's property or vice versa, the two insurance companies will have to determine which company is responsible for paying out. Each policy is different, although the standard wording states that the policy on the property that incurred the damage will pay for that damage unless the owner of the tree was negligent by not taking it down earlier.
Angie Mohr is a syndicated finance columnist who has been writing professionally since 1987. She is the author of the bestselling "Numbers 101 for Small Business" books and "Piggy Banks to Paychecks: Helping Kids Understand the Value of a Dollar." She is a chartered accountant, certified management accountant and certified public accountant with a Bachelor of Arts in economics from Wilfrid Laurier University.