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Noyes, Hall & Allen Blog

Is Your Fallen Tree Covered by Maine Homeowners Insurance?

February 26th, 2010     Noyes Hall & Allen

We’ve been very busy today with calls from clients who suffered damage in yesterday’s wild storm – and there’s more weather on the way this weekend. Most calls have concerned fallen tree limbs, which can be some of the trickiest claims to advise insureds about. Here’s why.

You have  3 possible sources of coverage for tree damage:

  • your homeowners property coverage;
  • your homeowners liability coverage;
  • and your car insurance.

There are also 3 types of financial loss:

  • The cost to cut up and haul away the limb;
  • The cost to repair damage to your property;
  • The cost to repair damage to your neighbor’s property caused by your tree.

You can see how this might get complicated pretty quickly. But there’s more. Consider this:

  • Most property policies pay for YOUR damage if the tree or limb damages your building or structure. They also pay to remove the offending tree or limb.
  • Most property policies do NOT pay to remove a tree or limb that doesn’t damage anything else. There are exceptions to this rule, depending on which company you’re insured with, and which optional coverages you bought.
  • Liability coverage pays for your “legal liability” for damage to someone else’s property. You have to be considered “negligent” for coverage to apply. Just because it was your tree that fell on your neighbor’s fence, that doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. Liability could depend on the condition of the tree before the storm, among other factors.

Put all of these factors together, and you can understand why there’s no quick answer to “am I (or my neighbor) covered when a tree falls in my yard”. Your best bet is to call your agent, and get their opinion of your unique situation.

4 Pieces of Advice
While every situation’s different, these should apply to most situations.

  • Take photos of the damage or the fallen tree or limb.
  • Take immediate steps to protect your property from additional damage.
  • Make arrangements to have the tree removed. No need to wait for an adjuster to see it.
  • Remember, there’s a difference between the law and being a good neighbor.

If you’re not legally responsible, and your liability doesn’t cover their damage, their homeowners policy will probably cover it. But, they’ll have to pay their property deductible. In the interest of maintaining good relations, you and your neighbor may want to talk about cost sharing.

Good luck weathering the storm!

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There are 4 comments for “Is Your Fallen Tree Covered by Maine Homeowners Insurance?”
  • Eddy thinks:

    Great information you have here. I’m looking for any other insurance info, especially homeowner insurance. Keep on posting !

  • noyeshallallen thinks:

    Thanks for the encouragement. Glad to hear you find this information helpful.

  • maryp thinks:

    question: my house is rental property. Got notified by my management company in Nov2009 that my tenant use Sept rent to cover his deductible caused by fallen limbs in front of the house. **even management company didn’t know until tenant haven’t pay**

    My landlord insurance said since it’s “act of natural”, my landlord insurance WON’T cover!

    To avoid further discussion, I just let my tenant go for using the rent to cover the deductible + extra cost to repair car damage.

    Is this right? Am I responsible to my tenant’s deductible if it’s an act of natural? We didn’t know the limbs were broken until tenant claimed it hit his car!!

    HELP~

  • noyeshallallen thinks:

    maryp,
    We can’t answer your question, as we don’t know what laws may apply in your state, what insurance policies and forms apply, what your lease says, etc. In Maine, if the tree was not known to be diseased before the accident, falling limbs and trees are usually considered to be “acts of nature”, which absolves the property owner from legal liability. The damage would be covered under the tenant’s insurance: either a renter’s policy (for personal property), or an auto policy (if the damaged property was a vehicle).

    There’s a difference between “legal liability” and “what you think is fair, under the circumstances”. We hear about many situations where a property owner reimburses a neighbor’s deductible for damage when their tree falls on the neighbor’s property.

    If you reimbursed the deductible in order to maintain positive relations with a good tenant, that’s a business decision. If you feel that you don’t want to pay the tenant’s deductible, and they are withholding rent, you should consult an attorney. You may be legally right.

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