Trees and landscaping add value to a home and make use of the yard more pleasant, but they also come with financial liability. Trees downed by a storm, disease or old age can damage property or require potentially expensive clean-up actions. Homeowner's insurance policies sometimes cover tree removal services, and tree service companies may be required to carry liability insurance to protect themselves in case of a mishap.
Tree Removal With Property Damage
If a tree or a limb falls and damages your home, automobile or, in some cases, landscaping, your homeowner's insurance covers the cost of repairs, which, in most cases includes extraction of the tree from the scene of the accident. Additionally, if a limb or tree from your yard damages your neighbor's property, his homeowner's policy covers the cost: In most cases, each property owner's homeowner's insurance covers damages, despite the source of the damage.
Cost of Removal
When it's time to clean up a downed tree, arborists and other tree specialists frequently offer removal services. While prices vary depending upon the size of the tree and the position where it fell—next to power lines, houses, fences and other property complicates the job—safely clearing and hauling away a downed tree can easily run hundreds of dollars. Many homeowner policies cover removal costs, less your standard deductible, and nearly every policy caps the total amount allotted to remove each tree. Check your policy or with your agent for specifics on your policy.
When a downed tree is removed from your yard, the expenses don't stop. Trees and landscaping damaged by weather are often covered by homeowner's policies, a fact some adjustors overlook when providing an estimate or quote. With the price of mature trees purchased from tree farms sometimes exceeding smaller deductibles, making a claim to replace a downed tree is usually a financially sound decision, particularly if numerous plants suffered damages in the storm. If your policy covers landscape damages, it caps the coverage limit per tree or bush. Consult your policy for specifics.
Contractors who take on tree removal jobs also need to carry insurance to do the job. Although general liability policies usually protect contractors from damages incurred in normal operations, some parts of tree removal work aren't covered by standard policies. In addition to carrying an Errors and Omissions policy written to cover tree work, contractors can limit liabilities by working alongside an arborist when working to remove downed limbs from still-standing, living trees.
State and Local Ordinances
Some states and many local governments regulate tree removal and trimming operations, even on private property, making permits necessary to move forward with a removal project on a standing tree. Failure to secure a proper permit may result in fines up to the fair market value of a replacement tree. Contractors' bids to remove a tree should include permit costs, which are usually covered in settlements for removal costs. If fines accrue, homeowner's policies won't apply.
Wilhelm Schnotz has worked as a freelance writer since 1998, covering arts and entertainment, culture and financial stories for a variety of consumer publications. His work has appeared in dozens of print titles, including "TV Guide" and "The Dallas Observer." Schnotz holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Colorado State University.