Trees are a wonderful addition to your home’s landscape, but they can also cause real problems if a heavy wind topples one, and it lands on your neighbor’s property and damages their home. Who is legally responsible for paying to repair that damage?
If you answered, “I am,” you would be wrong. Your neighbor would have to submit a claim to their homeowner’s policy insurer to pay for any necessary repairs. Wind and lightning are generally covered perils in a standard HO3 homeowner’s policy, or they are included in a homeowner’s all-risk policy.
Since your carrier doesn’t have to pay, your policy won’t be impacted, which means your insurance premiums won’t increase. However, you still may not be off the hook for liability, because your neighbor might decide to sue you to cover their deductible.
The only instance in which you would be required to pay for the damage to your neighbor’s property caused by your fallen tree is when the damage resulted from your negligence. You could be held liable if your tree was dying or already dead before it fell on your neighbor’s property, and you did nothing to prevent property damage. In this case, your insurance carrier would have to cover the repairs. In addition, if your neighbor files a lawsuit against you alleging negligence, your insurer would be required to defend you and investigate the claim.
If you are found to be legally responsible for the damage to your neighbor’s house, your carrier will pay up to your policy limits. Your neighbor can also submit a liability claim against your homeowner’s insurance policy.
Of course, the best way to avoid a situation like this is to prevent it from happening. If you have a tree on your property that looks unhealthy, consider having it checked by an arborist and, if necessary, removed before it falls. It may seem like a large expense, but it may actually save you money in the long run by helping you avoid increased insurance premiums. Equally as important, removing the possible risk of damage will help you maintain a good relationship with your neighbor. And as any homeowner knows, that is worth its weight in gold, especially if you plan to stay in your home for a while.