Solved! Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Tree Removal?

Homeowners insurance may cover tree removal, but it has to fit under very specific circumstances depending on how the tree was damaged and what sort of damage the tree caused.

By Michelle Honeyager and Catherine Hiles | Updated Aug 3, 2022 11:50 AM

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Tree Removal

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Q: A crazy windstorm came through our neighborhood last night, and a tree fell really close to our house. There’s debris in our yard and one of our trees is pretty badly damaged. What can I do to take care of this? Does homeowners insurance cover tree removal?

A: The answer to the question of “Does homeowners insurance cover tree removal?” is that it can depend. If the tree fell as a result of a covered peril, such as the windstorm you experienced last night, then your homeowners insurance policy may cover the removal of the tree as part of the covered damage. However, restrictions can apply, including whether the tree fell because of homeowner neglect or as a result of a peril that was not covered on the homeowners insurance policy. Read below to learn more about when homeowners insurance covers tree removal.

Homeowners insurance may cover tree removal costs depending on why the tree fell and where it landed.

Will homeowners insurance cover tree removal?And does homeowners insurance cover tree damage? Homeowners insurance primarily covers what are known as “covered perils.” These perils are events that cause damage to the home and are listed on the policy as being covered. Common covered perils, as they relate to tree damage, include fire or lightning; windstorm or hail; damage caused by vehicles; falling objects; the weight of ice, snow, or sleet; vandalism; or damage caused by aircraft. For example, if a lightning storm struck a tree and knocked it down, the homeowners insurance policy would likely cover tree removal because the tree was damaged from an event that’s considered a covered peril. However, insurance will only reimburse the homeowner for tree removal once they have met their deductible, which may be $1,000 or more. Homeowners will need to determine whether it is worth making a claim depending on the cost to remove the trees and their deductible amount.

Where the tree landed can often affect what is covered as well. For instance, if a tree fell and damaged an insured structure, then the homeowners insurance may be more likely to cover the tree removal itself. However, if a tree branch simply fell into the yard, homeowners insurance will likely not cover its removal. If the branch falls and blocks an access ramp or driveway, some policies may cover the removal of the tree in that case.

You may be wondering, “Will homeowners insurance pay for dead tree removal?” Since this is considered part of homeowner upkeep rather than a covered peril, it typically won’t. The same goes for the question of “Does homeowners insurance cover preventative tree removal?” Typically, the answer is no, since that’s considered maintenance.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Tree Removal

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If a tree falls on your home during a windstorm, removal is typically covered regardless of whether the tree originated on your property. 

In general, removal of a tree that falls on a house or other covered structure and causes damage is covered by homeowners insurance, regardless of whether the tree that fell was in your yard or not. However, there may be some back and forth about whose insurance should cover the tree removal and associated damage.

If a tree falls on house structures on the homeowner’s property and the tree originated from their yard, the best homeowners insurance companies should take care of any covered damage or tree removal. However, if the tree fell on house structures and originated in a neighbor’s yard, the homeowner’s insurance provider may try to get the neighbor’s homeowners insurance to pay for the damage and tree removal. This is a process called subrogation. According to the Insurance Information Institute, you might even be reimbursed for your deductible in such a case.

Homeowners insurance tends to cover tree removal caused by certain perils, even if it doesn’t damage a structure.

Does homeowners insurance cover tree removal from storm damage?The answer to that question is possibly, because in general homeowners insurance considers a storm to be a covered peril. Similarly, if lightning struck the tree and knocked it down, that would typically be covered under the policy as a named peril. Removal of the downed tree might also be covered if part of the tree was damaged in a fire and caused it to fall down. If the tree was deliberately damaged by a vandal and fell into the yard, then that would likely be covered by homeowners insurance as well.

However, there is a gray area when it comes to what is covered by homeowners insurance. If the tree toppled and did not cause any damage to a covered structure, its removal may not be covered by insurance. Similarly, homeowners insurance will not typically cover any debris that simply needs to be cleaned up, such as if a branch blew off in a storm and landed in the homeowner’s yard. The homeowners insurance policy itself should clarify whether it will cover removal of a tree felled by a covered peril if that tree did not cause damage to the house or other covered structure. It can also depend on the individual policy on whether a whole tree that did not hit an insured structure will be covered for its removal. Some situations, such as when a tree branch or whole tree is blocking a driveway or access ramp, are more likely to be covered by homeowners insurance. It’s important for homeowners to check their policy carefully to know when tree removal is covered and when it is not.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Tree Removal

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Removal of a tree that fell because of homeowner neglect will generally not be covered by homeowners insurance.

Homeowners insurance typically only covers sudden and accidental perils, including events like fires, lightning storms, and windstorms. That’s because these events are unexpected and homeowners are generally unable to prepare for damage as extensive as that caused by a perfectly healthy tree coming down.

However, there are instances where the insurer will consider the tree damage to have been preventable. An old and brittle tree that falls during a storm is less likely to be covered because the insurer considers it part of a homeowner’s responsibility to have an old or rotting tree taken down for safety. Older and dead trees have a higher likelihood of catching fire because they are drier and are more prone to being knocked over in a windstorm, so the issue could have been foreseen and prevented. That’s why it’s important for homeowners to keep up with tree maintenance year-round. With all this in mind, the answer to the question of “Does homeowners insurance cover preventative tree removal?” is that it is not likely.

If the tree fell as a result of a flood, earthquake, or landslide, removal would likely not be covered by homeowners insurance.

Homeowners insurance typically will not cover damage caused by flooding, earthquakes, or landslides. Those events are not considered covered perils by most homeowners insurance policies and require additional coverage instead, which may be a requirement by the mortgage lender for homeowners living in high-risk areas. Therefore, a tree that falls on a home due to one of these perils will likely not be covered by homeowners insurance.

If a homeowner does purchase an additional policy pertaining to earthquakes, floods, or landslides, it’s important to read the policy carefully to see if tree removal or debris cleanup is covered under these additional insurance products. It’s also important to check to see how coverage is affected if the tree comes in from other property, such as if it was carried in as part of a landslide.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Tree Removal

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Insurance companies typically cap coverage for tree removal either based on a percentage of the policy limits or per tree.

Even if tree removal is covered by a homeowners insurance policy, the amount of coverage can vary greatly between insurers. They may pay out a percentage of the policy limits, a set amount, or a per-tree amount. The Insurance Information Institute states that the cost insurers will pay to remove a tree is generally limited to 5 percent of the coverage on the structure, or between $500 and $1,000 per tree, though it depends on the insurer and the specific policy purchased. Homeowners with a lot of mature trees surrounding their home may choose a higher limit when determining how much insurance they need, if that is an option offered by the homeowners insurance company.

In cases where a downed tree has not caused damage to any covered structures, the homeowner will need to determine whether it’s worth making a homeowners insurance claim for tree removal. The homeowner will need to pay their insurance deductible before the policy will pay out for tree removal, and depending on how many trees need to be removed and what the cost is, it might make better financial sense for the homeowner to pay for tree removal out of pocket rather than making a claim, which could result in higher premiums at renewal as well.

Insurance companies may offer endorsements that provide additional coverage for tree removal.

Does homeowners insurance cover tree removal after storm damage? And will homeowners insurance cover cutting down a tree? These situations may be covered by homeowners insurance if the owner has taken out specific endorsements.A homeowner who is very concerned about falling trees may opt for tree removal insurance coverage products that can offer greater protection for falling trees. This may be a good option for a homeowner whose home is situated on a heavily wooded lot with many mature trees. In this case, additional tree insurance products that include tree removal insurance might be worth looking into.

Endorsements are insurance products that homeowners can add on to their existing base policy. Homeowners might be able to add products like a debris removal endorsement or a lawn and garden endorsement to help stay protected from falling trees. Homeowners can talk to their insurance agent to find additional options that might work for them.