Here's the question that I've often been asked, "Is there coverage if a tree falls on my property?" What's my favorite answer? Yep, maybe. Let's look at the unendorsed ISO HO 00 03 to find out if a homeowner or business might have coverage.
What does the HO-3 tell us?
We have to look past Coverages A - D to the Additional Coverages. That takes us to Additional Coverage 3. Trees, Shrubs, And Other Plants. Let's see what it tells us.
We cover trees, shrubs, plants or lawns, on the “residence premises”, for loss caused by the following Perils Insured Against:
That’s a good start. At least it tells us that there is some consideration. Let’s look at the Perils Insured Against.
- Fire or Lightning;
- Riot or Civil Commotion;
- Vehicles not owned or operated by a resident of the “residence premises”;
- Vandalism or Malicious Mischief; or
Now we’re back to maybe because our original question didn’t speak to what knocked the tree over. Of course, in the context of the conversation that I had over the weekend, we aren’t finding any coverage yet because windstorm or hail didn’t appear as a Peril Insured Against.
If there was coverage for the damage to the tree, let’s just say that someone was driving around the corner and ended up plowing their car into a shrub along the edge of the yard. There is coverage to replace that shrub, but only $500 per tree, shrub or plant. The total limit available for all trees, shrubs and plants is 5% of the Coverage A limit, which may be enough, depending on the number and type of trees, shrubs and plants the homeowner has.
You’ll also note that this is providing coverage for damage to the tree. We haven’t talked at all about getting rid of the tree. If the homeowner has a fireplace and the tools, time, and strength to cut and split the wood, they might have next winter’s supply of fire wood. The other homeowners have an issue with getting rid of that tree. Is there coverage for that?
For that, we have to go backward a little in the policy. We stay in the Additional Coverages. Look at 1. Debris Removal for this coverage. Here’s what it tells us about trees.
- We will also pay your reasonable expense, up to $1,000, for the removal from the “residence premises” of:
(1) Your trees fells by the peril of Windstorm or Hail or Weight of Ice, Snow, or Sleet; or
(2) A neighbor’s trees felled by a Peril Insured Against under Coverage C;
provided the trees:
(3) Damage a covered structure; or
(4) Do not damage a covered structure, but
(a) Block a driveway on the “residence premises” which prevents a “motor vehicle”, that is registered for use on public roads or property, from entering or leaving the “residence premises”; or
(b) Block a ramp or other fixture designed to assist a handicapped person to enter or leave the dwelling building.
Here is where we find some coverage to remove trees felled by the storm we were talking about. Remember that we didn’t find a Peril Insured Against to cover damage to the trees, but we did when it comes to removing the trees. So the policy is not replacing the trees, only getting them cut up and removed from the premises.
Did you notice that there’s also coverage for the neighbor’s trees that fall and damage the dwelling, or make it inaccessible? The policy provides some expanded Perils Insured Against by providing the Coverage C Perils Insured Against. Yes, Windstorm or Hail is in that list. No, we aren’t going through that whole list here. We’re just making note that if the storm knocks a neighbor’s tree into the homeowner’s house, damaging the house, there is some coverage to remove that tree, too.
This is a limited coverage because it isn’t providing removal of all trees, only those trees that damage the dwelling or make it inaccessible by car or if the homeowner can’t use their ramp to get into the dwelling. It’s also limited in value. This is limited to $1,000 for all trees felled and up to $500 per tree felled.
What’s important to remember?
- If a storm knocks a tree over and that tree damages or blocks the house, there’s coverage to remove
- If a storm knocks a tree over, there is no coverage to replace
SOURCE: Academy Journal Blog BY: Patrick Wraight