Insurance Academy

How Does the Homeowners’ Policy Deal with Trees?

By | Academy Journal Blog | October 11, 2017

We went to a birthday party over the weekend. At one point the conversation spun into hurricane talk, as it does after a storm passes over. We had folks that live all over Florida and the questions always start with, “How did your house do with the storm?” Thankfully, everyone reported that their homes were in one piece. For most of us, the report was the same. The house was fine, and there were a lot of sticks and twigs cleared out of the trees and into the yard. That always leads to talk of downed trees.

We talked about downed trees for quite some time. One friend has a tree that had a split in the trunk near the ground. Those two major pieces have started to separate so he’s going to have that tree removed. Another friend told us that he had several pine trees that snapped. I drove by a tree that snapped off and fell in front of the house that it was next to. It looked to me as it if had only missed the house by a few feet.

That got me to thinking about trees and how our property policies handle them. Here’s the question that I’ve often been asked, “Is there coverage if a tree falls on my property?” What’s my favorite answer? Yep, maybe. Let’s look at the unendorsed ISO HO 00 03 and CP 00 10 to find out if a homeowner or business might have coverage.

What does the HO-3 tell us?

We have to look past Coverages A – D to the Additional Coverages. That takes us to Additional Coverage 3. Trees, Shrubs, And Other Plants. Let’s see what it tells us.

We cover trees, shrubs, plants or lawns, on the “residence premises”, for loss caused by the following Perils Insured Against:

That’s a good start. At least it tells us that there is some consideration. Let’s look at the Perils Insured Against.

  1. Fire or Lightning;
  2. Explosion;
  3. Riot or Civil Commotion;
  4. Aircraft;
  5. Vehicles not owned or operated by a resident of the “residence premises”;
  6. Vandalism or Malicious Mischief; or

Now we’re back to maybe because our original question didn’t speak to what knocked the tree over. Of course, in the context of the conversation that I had over the weekend, we aren’t finding any coverage yet because windstorm or hail didn’t appear as a Peril Insured Against.

If there was coverage for the damage to the tree, let’s just say that someone was driving around the corner and ended up plowing their car into a shrub along the edge of the yard. There is coverage to replace that shrub, but only $500 per tree, shrub or plant. The total limit available for all trees, shrubs and plants is 5% of the Coverage A limit, which may be enough, depending on the number and type of trees, shrubs and plants the homeowner has.

You’ll also note that this is providing coverage for damage to the tree. We haven’t talked at all about getting rid of the tree. If the homeowner has a fireplace and the tools, time, and strength to cut and split the wood, they might have next winter’s supply of fire wood. The other homeowners have an issue with getting rid of that tree. Is there coverage for that?

For that, we have to go backward a little in the policy. We stay in the Additional Coverages. Look at 1. Debris Removal for this coverage. Here’s what it tells us about trees.

  1. We will also pay your reasonable expense, up to $1,000, for the removal from the “residence premises” of:

(1) Your trees fells by the peril of Windstorm or Hail or Weight of Ice, Snow, or Sleet; or

(2) A neighbor’s trees felled by a Peril Insured Against under Coverage C;

provided the trees:

(3) Damage a covered structure; or

(4) Do not damage a covered structure, but

(a) Block a driveway on the “residence premises” which prevents a “motor vehicle”, that is registered for use on public roads or property, from entering or leaving the “residence premises”; or

(b) Block a ramp or other fixture designed to assist a handicapped person to enter or leave the dwelling building.

Here is where we find some coverage to remove trees felled by the storm we were talking about. Remember that we didn’t find a Peril Insured Against to cover damage to the trees, but we did when it comes to removing the trees. So the policy is not replacing the trees, only getting them cut up and removed from the premises.

Did you notice that there’s also coverage for the neighbor’s trees that fall and damage the dwelling, or make it inaccessible? The policy provides some expanded Perils Insured Against by providing the Coverage C Perils Insured Against. Yes, Windstorm or Hail is in that list. No, we aren’t going through that whole list here. We’re just making note that if the storm knocks a neighbor’s tree into the homeowner’s house, damaging the house, there is some coverage to remove that tree, too.

This is a limited coverage because it isn’t providing removal of all trees, only those trees that damage the dwelling or make it inaccessible by car or if the homeowner can’t use their ramp to get into the dwelling. It’s also limited in value. This is limited to $1,000 for all trees felled and up to $500 per tree felled.

What’s important to remember?

  • If a storm knocks a tree over and that tree damages or blocks the house, there’s coverage to remove
  • If a storm knocks a tree over, there is no coverage to replace

What about the CP 00 10? I think that’s enough for today. We’ll look at that form next time.

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Latest Comments

  • October 16, 2017 at 9:49 am
    Thanks check... I love a good ombudsman. Today's lesson: don't trust your spell check. Wait a few hours, then read what you write before actually posting it.
  • October 11, 2017 at 12:53 pm
    checkyourfacts says:
    "Your trees fells by the peril of Windstorm or Hair or Weight of Ice, Snow, or Sleet; or" Good to know there is coverage is your tree gets knocked over by "hair"....
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