Who's Responsible When a Tree Falls on Your House?

Between the summer storms, the fall hurricane season, and the heavy winter ice, you're always a wreck worrying that your neighbor's tree is going to fall on your house. Your neighbor keeps insisting the tree is fine, until one day it's not...

Who's responsible for a tree that falls on your house?

The bad news is if a tree falls on your house, garage, fence, or yard, then you and your insurance company are responsible for it. Even if all the branches used to be on your neighbor's side of the fence. Even if it's rooted all the way on the other side of your neighbor's yard. Even if "Property of the Jones Family" is carved into the trunk. 

But what if you've been complaining about the tree forever?

You've been asking your neighbors to do something about the dead tree limbs hanging over your home for years. Instead of taking care of it they just said you were being a Nervous Nelly and it's not really a big deal.

You just need to prove to your insurance company that your neighbors knew their tree was a hazard and they just never bothered to address it. This isn't always easy to prove. Think back to any emails, texts, or letters you might have sent your neighbor. Those might be enough to prove their negligence. 

You'll still need to file the initial claim with your own insurance, but if you can prove your neighbors were neglectful, then your insurance company can attempt to collect from your neighbor's insurance company. If everything works out in your favor then your insurance company will probably reimburse you for your deductible.

If the tree hasn't fallen yet, but you're looking for a way to make sure you're covered when it does happen, you can always get the tree looked at by a professional. Once you get that opinion, you can send a certified letter to your neighbor outlining your concerns.  

What if the tree didn't hit any structures?

You dodged a bullet and the tree just missed your house. The only problem is now you've got a massive oak tree where your backyard used to be. Not only do you not have the tools (or the brute strength) to clear it, you're not sure you could do it safely. So, will your insurance company cover the cost of tree removal? The answer depends on what your insurance plan covers, but a lot of plans won't cover removal if it hasn't damaged any structures on the property. 

What else can you do?

Just because you're responsible for the damage to your home doesn't mean your neighbor can't act neighborly in the face of your disaster. Go over and let them know that you're okay and that you have an insurance adjuster coming to assess the damage. If you really want to put it out in the open, you can always let them know that you're paying the insurance deductible. Who knows, maybe they'll offer to split it with you?

Trees aren't the only thing that can damage your roof. Get our guide to roof maintenance and find out how to keep your roof in tip-top shape.