Homeowner's Insurance Question

Sorry in advance if this isn’t the right place for this question.

We had a 140-foot tulip poplar tree topple over yesterday, headed straight for our house. It was stopped by a similarly-sized beech tree, which could give way at any time.

We’re waiting for a crane to be available to remove the poplar. Estimated cost: $7,000. The insurance company says they won’t pay for the tree removal. They will, however, pay to repair the house if the tree hits. We’ve been told by the fire company and the tree service that the house will likely be totaled if the trees let loose.

This seems pretty stupid to me – is this standard insurance practice? Would we be well-advised to seek legal help to get the insurance company to chip in? Are legal fees worth it when only $7,000 is at stake?

Thanks in advance.

I don’t know, but on Gardening By the Yard, with Paul James the Gardener Guy, a tree once fell over causing a lot of damage when they were filming and so they made the show about it. He mentioned that your homeowner’s insurance indeed may not cover it if there’s no damage to the house. In other words, evidently it’s a widespread thing.

While you’re waiting for an awswer, you should probably go out and take pictures of the tree and it’s alingment with the house. These may come in handy if you need to prove to the insurace company that the tree was, in fact, heading right for the house. Also, if your insurace company has a local office, you should probably get a company rep to come and look at it.

I’m not an insurance expert, but based on my limited experience, if you know there is a hazard that can be prevented, and your insurance company knows it, and knows that YOU know it, if you refuse to fix it they may either drop you or raise your rates.

Here’s an article on the subject. http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/special_packages/hurricane_wilma/13084858.htm

And a link: http://www.lawyers.com/lawyers/A~1001893~LDS/Homeowners+Insurance+FAQ.html

and this:

It’s worth it to talk to a lawyer, even if you wind up not pursuing the matter.

The quoted material was from here: http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/housing/covered/covered.htm

If the insurance company is insuring the house & contents why on earth should they be responsible for a fallen tree that falls but misses your house? Your premise that they should be financially responsible some fashion for removing risk factors to your house makes no sense to me. It might be prudent to get rid of the tree but they are not legally required to do so.

I can’t help you directly but I am the person who’s house was partially destroyed by a huge oak tree a year ago last May. $300,000 and over a year later, the house is better than ever. We were warned of the tree hazard and had a huge fork the size of a tree itself taken off but a fluke microburst brought it down anyway. Getting them to pay what they should was a 5 month battle and took outside resources. Even then, they only covered about 2/3’s of the damage because they always have ways that they can get out of things. We didn’t have as much warning as you do but I know they wouldn’t have paid to take the tree down beforehand.

The only moral for you is that if the tree falls, it will end up costing you more than $7000 if the damage is major even with insurance. The best thing to do is document everything you can, get the tree removed, and fight them later. Your $7000 estimate may be high also. Our tree was one massive, 250 year old thing. Tree disaster specialist moved cranes, a whole crew, trucks, and massive chippers in and had the whole thing gone in less than 5 hours even though it was covering three sides of our not very small house. The total bill was $2500 which I thought was amazing.

This may seem stupid but it does seem to make sense to me. Let’s suppose we’re talking about auto collision insurance instead of your homeowners insurance. Suppose you know that your car’s brakes are completely shot and that it will surely result in an accident if you drive it. Can you go ask your auto insurance company to pay for a brake job? I don’t think so.

From the insurance information institute

nivlac Has the reasoning right.

Hmm. This reminds me of something . . .

Bingo. At least in my limited experience also. I had a similar incident in Feb. We had about a 10 day rain storm, which saturated the grass to the point of no return. The last night of the storm, high winds blew 6 of my trees down. The good news is that the largest tree fell directly opposite of my house causing no damage (it would have crushed my house).

The bad news? 3 trees were damaged in my front yard that needed to come down. The insurance company was wonderful. They said that since they hadn’t fallen, they wouldn’t pay to have them removed. And if I didn’t remove them and they fell on the house, since I called and they had a record of the call, I wouldn’t be covered either. Thanks a bunch!

So, I removed them myself. I personally think their logic was BS and I’m currently seeking another insurance company. We were talking about preventative tree removal. Damaged trees. If it fell on my house or my neighbor’s home, they are looking at a $150K bill easily. It cost about $500 to take down the damaged trees in the front. But because I was honest and let them know that these trees were in trouble and might come down at any time, I was boned. The best part is if I never said anything and the tree came down the next day, I would have been covered. WTF is that? Honesty is **not ** the best policy. The only way I could have been covered is if I could get a tree expert to sign a paper stating that the trees were in no danger of falling. Yeah, good luck with that. I’d never sign a paper like that if I was an arborist. I couldn’t blame them. I’m also no tree expert. If I decided to ignore those trees and they fell, oh well! The insurance company claims they would have covered me in this case. :rolleyes:

I’ll never be that honest to an insurance company again. Money is the answer to any question you don’t understand the answer to. Throw logic out the window. They are out to make money, not pay it out in claims. I even asked for an adjuster to come out and make the determination for the company. No dice.

What a bunch of crumbs.

Sorry about your tree problem. Best of luck getting it resolved.

Yes, insurance companies are out to make money. If they start paying out claims for coverage that’s explicitly excluded by their policies, they are at risk of becoming insolvent, which benefits nobody.

The industry-standard homeowner’s policy, the HO-3, explicitly excludes weather damage to trees. It’s designed to protect dwellings and structures, not land. Insurance companies have pretty good ideas about how to appraise and repair a house, and how to assess its vulnerability to various catastrophes (hurricane, fire, tornado, etc.). They have not much of an idea at all about how to assess landscaping and trees, so they don’t cover them.

Yes, the HO-3 could be modified to cover trees. You could, if you wished, even pass a law to forbid insurance companies from selling policies without such coverage. This would make insurance more expensive for everybody, and force people without big yards to subsidize people with them.

As it is, if you want your landscaping covered, you have to pay extra.

After Hurricaine Opal here a few years back, we had to have the pecan tree in our back yard removed because it started leaning a bit. We hadn’t even noticed it leaning, but apparently an insurance company rep started doing drive-bys of houses his company covered, and we received a letter saying if the tree did any damage to the house our homeowners policy would not cover it.

So we took a beautiful, sturdy pecan tree down. Boy were the squirrels pissed off!

I know it’s risky to compare insurance to gambling, but this is an excellent example. In the OP the gamble is: homeowner is betting that something bad is going to happen to his house. The insurance company examines the details and places odds that it won’t. $100 bet (insurance premium) buys a potential $100,000 payoff.

Let’s go to the track. You bet on Slipknot to win in the third. The bookie reviews the other horses and decides your bet should be a 10 to 1. Jubilant, you go and shot all the other horses as they round the back stretch. Does the bookie have the right to withdraw his cover of the bet? Of course he does because you just cheated.

Let’s go back to the Looming Tree of Doom. Insurance company laid you 100 to 1 odds against the tree smashing your house, and stipulates IN WRITING AT THE TIME OF THE BET that you are to do your reasonable part to protect the house by addressing potential hazards. A tree becomes unstable near the house, and you have the chance to prevent damage (lose the bet this time around). Leaving the LTOD in its unstable position is cheating–the bookie is therefore clear of any obligation to pay you.

See also nivlac’s post.

See also: which makes more sense? Paying $7,000 to prevent a problem or $200,000 to fix it after the fact? (* Gratuitous political stab deleted due to forum restrictions *)

I’m sorry that this reply is poorly formatted, but I am headed out to get my son from preschool.

I know for a fact that many insurance companies will NOT pay for house damage caused by a dead tree. I’ve not yet heard of a policy that covers dead tree damage – only damage caused by living trees.

I’d say it’s best just to get rid of it as soon as possible.

I apologize if this has already been addressed. I didn’t have time to read the entire thread.

What is in a standard homeowners insurance policy?

Are there different types of policies?

That is a very poor writen link (not your fault of course, you did not write it) What is described in your link is a fire policy NOT a homeowner’s policy.
Dinking around the website I found the proper link Your basic homeowner’s policy (HO-3) covers

Check your policy for a complete list of perils excluded.
An HO-3 policy cover all risk of physical loss except for named exclusions.
BTW a straight fire policy (HO-1) does not cover a falling tree (but these policies are very rare) but a broad form (HO-2) does cover falling objects. HO-2 are also fairly rare in owner occupied units IIRC.
BTW Dracona dead trees are not a named exclusion in any homeowner’s policy I have ever read, I believe you are incorrect.

Well, the link isn’t poorly written, really, although the first one was deceptive. The second one I posted is the same as the one you chose. What I failed to emphasize was that the second link describes HO-1 this way:

(Emphasis added.)

And we both failed to include a link to the actual policy: http://server.iii.org/yy_obj_data/binary/748905_1_0/HO3_sample.pdf which includes section E.1.b. that explicitly covers tree removal, but limits the coverage to $500 for one tree, and only covers fallen trees that damages a structure or blocks a driveway or ramp.