McQuiston: Your Tree Fell In Your Yard … Are You Covered?

The Jemez Agency

The past few months have been devastating for much of the country due to Hurricanes Florence and Michael causing a catastrophic amount of damage, especially in the southeast.

There have been homes destroyed, businesses closed, and families displaced around the region. The south is known for its big, beautiful trees that line the parks, streets, and neighborhoods. But did you know that most homeowner’s policies only cover the cost to remove trees that hit a covered structure?

There’s also a limit to how much insurance will pay to remove the tree debris, once the tree has hit the ground. While most of us worry about having adequate insurance coverage for our homes and cars, how often do we think about trees?  If your property has mature trees, like many in Los Alamos do, keep reading.

Most standard homeowner’s policies cover the full and reasonable cost to get a tree off a covered structure, subject to applicable policy limits. For example, assume a large tree from your property falls on your home during a storm. What does your policy cover? Most policies will cover the reasonable cost to get the tree removed from the house and onto the ground, then up to $500 to get the tree cut and hauled away. You might be thinking, “But what if the cost to remove the debris is $3,000?” Unfortunately, the policy limit of $500 would apply, which could leave you paying a large portion out of pocket.

BUT WAIT! What if you have trees down in your yard, but doesn’t hit a covered structure? Whether or not your insurance will cover the cost to remove the fallen trees will depend on your policy language (not all policy language are alike), but most standard homeowner’s policies would not provide coverage to remove trees that simply fell in the yard.

So what’s the moral of the story? If you live on a property with a lot of trees, check your policy to determine if you have tree removal coverage. Again, most policies will limit the dollar amount of debris removal coverage for trees, if you have coverage.  Also, your policy often won’t reimburse you to replace the trees that fell due to wind.