If you’ve ever watched trees in a storm, you know that it can be scary.
A sunny day can turn into a violent and windy thunderstorm in a matter of minutes. Menacing black clouds creep in quickly, bringing strong winds that push the trees around, swaying them back and forth and carrying away leaves and small branches with ease. Hurricanes, though more predictable, can come on just as fast and with even more force.
Trees are used as a gauge for defining how powerful a storm is, not only to the average person, but in meteorological storm categories and wind measurement. The intensity of a storm can be determined by observing the wind in the trees, how it moves the branches and if it is strong enough to uproot even the grandest of oaks.
It’s a helpless feeling when uncontrollable forces of nature are at work and all you can do is cross your fingers that a heavy branch or tree won’t fall on your home or car. Of course, if you ever do experience tree storm damage, your insurance can help.
Structural damage caused by branches and trees falling in a storm is one of the most common homeowners insurance claims during hurricane season, as well as in the winter due to blizzards and heavy snow.
As a homeowner, it is your responsibility to perform regular maintenance to your home and property to avoid potentially dangerous situations. This includes pruning and trimming tree branches that are weak or hanging over your house and removing dead or dying trees. Hire a professional to take care of the big jobs ahead of hurricane season as part of your seasonal home maintenance in the spring.
Insurance Coverage for Tree Storm Damage
First and foremost, if a tree falls on your home, evacuate immediately, make sure everyone is safe and call 911. If you can do so safely, cover up any openings caused by the fallen tree with a tarp or something similar.
“If a tree hits your home or other insured structure, such as a detached garage, your standard homeowners insurance policy covers the damage to the structure, as well as any damage to the contents,” according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Keep in mind that poor maintenance is taken into consideration when reviewing claims. If your insurance company determines that storm damage could have been avoided by proper upkeep, such as failure to remove a dead tree, it may not be covered.
In some cases, the destruction may be so bad that your home could be deemed unsafe to live in and you may need to make other living arrangements. “Your home insurance may also help you cover additional living expenses if you need to reside elsewhere while repairs are being made,” said Jodi DeSantis, managing director of insurance sales for AAA Northeast.
If a tree falls and causes damage to your vehicle, it will be covered if you carry comprehensive – sometimes called “other-than-collision” coverage, on your policy. Policy deductibles (the out-of-pocket limit that you are responsible for paying) will apply.
Imagine stocking up on bread, eggs and milk before a storm, just for it all to go to waste because of a power outage. Falling trees and branches often cause prolonged power losses, but many people don’t realize that they may be able to get reimbursed for the cost of lost groceries.
Check with your insurance agent to see if you have food spoilage coverage on your homeowners policy. If not, it is relatively inexpensive to add. “It is well worth the dollars. And most insurance carriers will waive your deductible when this coverage is utilized,” said DeSantis.
If you do experience a power outage, maintain the temperature of your refrigerator or freezer by keeping the door closed as much as possible. Once power is restored, check all your refrigerated foods for freshness; if there is any doubt, throw it out!
Get more tips on how to handle a power outage.
What if a neighbor’s tree falls and damages your property? Your insurance will protect you no matter who the tree belongs to; however, your neighbor may be held liable if the tree was knowingly in poor condition or deteriorating. Just another reason why it’s important to stay on top of tree maintenance.
Storm Damage Tree Removal
If a tree falls on your property and causes structural damage, repairs as well as tree removal may be covered by your insurance. If the fallen tree does not hit a structure, there may not be coverage for debris removal, except in certain situations like if the tree is blocking a driveway or handicapped ramp.
Have you ever experienced storm damage from trees? Tell us about in the comments.
Discuss homeowners insurance with a AAA Insurance agent today.
23 Thoughts on “How to Deal With Trees in a Storm”
I sent certified ketters to my township, which owns the lot next to me, telling them I had concerns about the many very large trees on their never-maintained property (it’s a wooded lot). During Sandy in 2012 one of the huge trees fell on my roof. The tree was still partially rooted on their property! I advised the township only to receive a “summons” about living in an unsafe dwelling! My insurance had to pay to remove “their” tree (partially on their property) and also the repairs to my roof. It does not seem fair that people can have trees and bear no responsibility for them! I am disabled and handicapped and I have no way of monitoring the health of my neighbor’s forestation.
We were fortunate enough to have a 70+ft. maple fall onto our house during Sandy in 2012 when the storm uprooted the entire tree. It destroyed our roof and our kitchen, but luckily nobody and no dog or cat was injured. Because of the severity of Sandy it took several weeks before an adjuster even reached us, but AAA was right on top of it and arranged emergency repairs to cover the holes and dry out (sort of) the kitchen. Since the tree was a “town tree” we were banned from even touching it unless we wanted to pay a substantial fine, but the town was good and removed it within 48 hours. Not a fun experience, but no worse than the prior year when a Snowtober storm the last week of October took down half another tree and knocked out the power lines for several days. Here again we were fortunate: the town tree was handled by the town personnel, including the emergency responders because there were live wires on our property in water, and our auto insurer covered the $5000 damage to a brand new car (which we still have today).
Early March, 2018 a large oak fell on our house puncturing the roof, a bathroom ceiling, and causing damage to our 2nd floor deck. Our insurance company sent an adjuster (who we learned was brought in from 4 states away) to assess the damage. He noted our deck railing was damaged, and I, having recently reviewed local codes for other reasons, informed him that if the railing had to be replaced, it would have to be brought up to meet current code. Being from out of state, he said he wasn’t familiar with local code, but proceeded to list the railing as needing total replacement. We were told to get an estimate and forward it to the insurance company.
We had a couple contractors assess it and no estimate for the deck repair alone was less than $35K. (The damage to the roof was another tale of woe). When presented with the estimate, the insurance company balked and sent another adjuster, this time someone from our own state, (but not an engineer), who argued repeatedly that the entire railing did not need replacement, hence it did not need to be brought up to current code, thus saving our insurer thousands of dollars but costing US the full price of the repair.
As for the roof, the insurer was willing to pay for repair & replacement of the rear portion of the main slope of the house, but not the full roof, which would have left us with a roof of 2 different life expectancies.
I feel the entire claim was handled in a suspicious manner, i.e. we were allotted a token amount to have the repairs done, then to get the full amount of the claim, we were to submit invoices proving the work was done in order to receive the balance. There were so many “small” items and small amounts that it was difficult to keep track of it all. I’m positive we ended up receiving less than we should have for our entire claim. Moral of the story: don’t believe everything the insurer tells you; it seems they want to “help” you to their satisfaction rather than “make you whole”.
I had a tree come down across my garden (thankfully not the house). I could get $1500. but I had a $1000. deductible and could then get $500, BUT I would lose my good credit rate for 3 years at about $230 a year so in the end I would lose money. So of course I paid for it out of pocket.
We had a neighbor’s tree fall on our garage and damage 5 cars. The garage was determined a loss and had to be rebuilt. All the cars had extensive damage. Because we had informed the neighbor in writing with pictures of the tree via mail and signature required so we knew that they received the letter.
The neighbors insurance company paid 100%
Absentee landlord with a seriously dead Norway Maple on the property line. Over the years I have had overhanging branches trimmed by a professional company. If you’re reading this article, we know how $$$ beaucoup tree work is. The entire tree is now dead, ivy has taken over and this stands menacingly at the property line. I have sent two certified letters RRR and pictures to my insurance company. Interesting USPS note: certified letters requesting a signed return receipt and the postal worker will attempt and document 3 deliveries. It was explained to me by the post office that because of COVID to becomes difficult if not impossible to obtain a signature. In that case, the post worker will initial the form and this is considered a correct serve. In my particular area there is no resolution where in the Town would step in. My homeowners insurance from the well advertised company and logo of too outstretched hands in the receiving position have advised there’s nothing they can do, unless the tree does fall. They will await the “C” word, that being a claim. Little nagging question: Is it me?
Not you! Same situation. Tree finally fell destroyed garage and damage 5 cars. Neighbors insurance did pay 100% because we had informed them with certified letter and pictures
Big inconvenience and totally avoidable
You stated. “As a homeowner, it is your responsibility to perform regular maintenance to your home and property to avoid potentially dangerous situations. This includes pruning and trimming tree branches that are weak or hanging over your house and removing dead or dying trees. Hire a professional to take care of the big jobs ahead of hurricane season as part of your seasonal home maintenance in the spring”.
Yet not once during this informative article on shade trees and wind storm effects upon them, did you ever mention the important role of the Consulting Arborist / Certified Arborist as the professional technical expert to assist tree owners better understand their living asset for tree health and condition. There is no doubt that homeowners love their shade trees for a variety of reasons- largely for the myriad of benefits and services those trees deliver to them beyond shade, aesthetics and oxygen. With that all trees pose some level of risk, some trees more than others depending on visually obvious and not so obvious defects- a matter best diagnosed by the arboricultural practitioner every several years. The dude with the pick-up truck, the bandana hanging from the rear view mirror and his chainsaw with no credential is likely not the guy you want.
Hi Carsten – Great point. Thanks for the advice!
Neighbors tree fell on my pool. Did structural damage, as well as ripped liner and cover. I had to put claim in thru my insurance, because it was not attached to my home insurance only paid so much.$$$ 5 thousand $$$ short of what it cost to repair. I don’t feel I should have to take out a loan to repair.I just want my pool the way it was BEFORE tree fell on it.
Unfortunately In the 5 Boros of New York City, city owned trees within 15’ of the curbline are poorly maintained. I have 2 umingus oak trees on the sidewalk in front of my house that I’ve been pleading with the authorities to remove or prune. The trees overhang the house an constantly drop dead branches. They send inspectors that claim they are fine and do nothing about it. Unfortunately in NYC “trees rule”
Send a letter putting him on notice for dangerous trees – send letter certified mail. Notify your insurance and send pictures
If tree is dangerous town code enforcer should be able to have him remove it- you will need an arborist letter documentingvtree is dangerous and should be removed
If code enforcer does not issue summons due to politics file a complaint with your state code and building department- they will get involved and make sure state codes are adhered to
I’ve reported a dangerous tree in my neighbor’s yard several times but because of his position in the community, no one enforces my complaint. He refuses to remove it or even top it. This is an accident waiting to happen and will definitely head straight for my roof. Every time we have a storm my heart is in my throat waiting for this old half-dead tree to come crashing through. Not fair for an elderly disabled person to have to live this way!
We have the same problem. Neighbor’s tree is a potential disaster. We have asked them to top it off and they refuse. As a matter of fact it has become a major bone of contention and they no longer speak to us. Subsequently, I sent a certified letter which was delivered and signed for indicating that their tree is diseased and poses an extreme hazard. A copy of the letter has been forwarded to my agent as well as pictures of the hollowed out and decaying section of the trunk.
Limb hit roof and metal pipe (vent); interior damage (mold), no water due to cracked pipe, etc. Exterior damage roof & vent pipe th bathroom & kitchen. Running out of relatives. What do I do?
Hi Eddie, thanks for reading. The best thing you can do is reach out to your insurance agent to go over your policy and see how they can help you.
What if my tree or large branch falls onto a neighbor’s house or car? Does my homeowner’s insurance or the neighbor’s homeowner’s insurance cover that?
Hi AP, thanks for your question. Your insurance agent can help you to go over the specifics of your policy, but unless your tree was knowingly dead or dying, your neighbor’s insurance would likely cover in this situation.
2 years ago 2 40′ trees from my neighbors property fell onto my garage. Thankfully I was not home and my car was not in the garage. The trees canopy went through the roof of the garage causing much damage not only to the garage but to the deck pergola. The weight of these tall trees buckled the garage door and I couldn’t get into my house. The huge trees covered a 3rd of the backyard and the canopies covered the garage roof. I had concerns about my neighbors dying and deseased trees but failed to raise my concerns with him. I wish I had and maybe my homeowners insurance would not have had to cover the costs of thd damage his falling trees made to my home.
What if a neighbors tree limb from a healthy tree falls in my pool and damages my pool cover? Is it covered by my home insurance or the neighbor?
your homeowners should cover the damage, not your neighbors.
Hi Mike, thanks for reading. That would be covered by your home insurance. Your insurance agent can help you to go over the specifics of your policy.
HAD EXTENSIVE DAMAGE ON 8/4/2020 DUE TO A TREE LIMB FALLING ON MY ROOF AND CAR. I WAS WITHOUT POWER FOR 5 DAYS BUT LUCKILY HAVE A GENERATOR.
DAMAGE WAS OVER $1800 WHICH WAS NOT COVERED BY MY INSURANCE DUE TO MY $1000 DEDUCTIBLE. HOWEVER, THE STORM WAS DEEMED A FEDERAL MAJOR DISASTER AND I WAS ABLE TO RECOUP MY DAMAGE THRU MY INCOME TAX RETURN FOR 2020. THE TREE IS OWNED BY MY TOWN BUT THEY DID NOT COVER ANYTHING. SO MUCH FOR FIGHTING CITY HALL.