If your neighbor’s tree falls in your yard should you make a sound?

Winter is coming:

We are in the midst of the hurricane season in Rhode Island and will soon be facing the winter nor’easters that New England is famous for. Now is a good time for you to check the trees on your property to see if any issues need to be addressed before a catastrophe occurs.

Before any storm hits, it is important to assess the condition of any tree that could possibly damage any buildings on your property – including those on your neighbor’s property. Another important consideration are the power lines connecting your home to the street as they are typically the responsibility of the building owner if they are ever damaged.

What to do if you notice a problem?

If you notice a sick of previously damaged tree on your property, it is important to address the issue by hiring a licensed arborist to properly trim or remove the damaged tree. If the tree is located on your neighbor’s property, you should notify your neighbor that the tree could be a potential hazard. If your neighbor is unwilling to address the issue, it may be a good idea to take time-stamped photos and send them a certified letter to prove that they were made aware of the issue. (I will discuss why this is important below.)

A tree fell in your yard, am I covered?

Whether it’s your tree or your neighbor’s tree that falls in your yard, if there is no damage to any property or if the tree is not blocking access to your building, you probably be unable to file a claim with your insurance company. Homeowner’s and commercial property policies typically do not include coverage for the removal of fallen trees unless that removal it is in conjunction with repairing property damage caused by the tree and/or if that tree is blocking access to an egress of your building or a driveway. So, if a tree simply fell in your yard, you will be responsible to pay for that tree’s removal.

The tree hit my building, now what?

So, the fallen tree damaged your property or is blocking the egress to your building or driveway, who’s insurance policy will respond? If it is your tree that fell into your building, you are obviously going to put a claim into your own insurance company. The uncertainty usually occurs when your neighbor’s tree falls onto your property and causes damage or blocks access to your building.

Most people believe that your neighbor or your neighbor’s insurance policy should respond when that neighbor’s tree falls onto their property. Unfortunately, unless you can prove that your neighbor knew the tree was in danger of causing damage to your property (in this case, a certified letter mailed to your neighbor about the tree before the claim would be helpful) or if you can prove that a reasonable person would have noticed the danger, you and your insurance company are going to be responsible to fix the damage caused by your neighbor’s tree.

Even if you did send a letter to your neighbor and they refused to address the issue, your best option is to report the claim directly to your insurance company and provide them with a copy of the letter you sent or any pictures you might have taken. The damage caused by the tree will be covered by most property insurance policies and it will be a lot easier for you to deal with your own insurance company rather than trying to get your neighbor to file a claim on your behalf. Additionally, if your neighbor is found to be negligent, they or their insurance company will only be responsible for the Actual Cash Value (Depreciated Value) of the property damage. Homeowner’s or other property insurance policies are often written using Replacement Cost Value, meaning your insurance policy will pay for the full replacement cost of the property damage. Your insurance company can then subrogate against your neighbor’s policy for the actual cash value that they are responsible for. Don’t try to deal with this yourself, it will only cause you unneeded stress and frustration.

Independent Agents are your advocate when you have a claim

Whenever you have a claim, it is important to have someone available to answer your questions and guide you through the claims process. If you went to a direct writer or captive agent you may have to deal with someone at a call center who may not give you the service you are looking for. Call Shove Insurance today, we will work as your advocate when not only when finding you the correct coverage at the best price but also when you need your agent the most: after a claim.