Is Windstorm Damage Covered on a Standard Homeowner’s Policy?

June 26, 2019

A tree falls on your house. Does the owner of the tree or the owner of the property pay for the damage?

Is windstorm damage covered on a standard homeowner’s policy?

The quick answer is: Yes. Windstorm is a covered peril on a standard homeowner’s insurance policy. The more interesting question, however, is often whose homeowner’s insurance policy covers the loss?

To use the example of a falling tree, we can look at a few different scenarios to address the potentially muddy question of who pays for the damage from trees falling across property lines.

Scenario 1: Your tree falls on your house

If your tree falls on your house, your homeowner’s policy will provide coverage for any damages up to your policy limits, after you pay your deductible. This coverage extends to cover damage to your main home, garage, shed or other additional buildings, and structures such as a fence. If there is damage to a structure, debris removal is also covered, up to policy limits.

However, if your tree comes down in your yard during a windstorm without causing any damage to your house or structures, your homeowner’s policy will not pay for debris removal. You are responsible to take care of the removal of the tree.

Scenario 2: Your tree falls on your neighbor’s house

If your tree falls on your neighbor’s house, the basic rule is that the insurance policy of the property that was damaged pays for the loss. In other words, if your tree falls on your neighbor’s house, your neighbor’s homeowner’s insurance covers the damage to your neighbor’s house.

Scenario 3: Your neighbor’s tree fell on your house

If your neighbor's tree fell on your house, then your homeowner's insurance policy should pay for any damage per the property claim. This means that you are responsible for the damage to your house with your homeowner's insurance paying for the any repairs to the home if the tree falls on your house, regardless if it's your neighbor's tree.

Scenario 4: What to do if neighbor’s tree that fell on your house was old and weak, and you think the damage could have been avoided

Allow us to start with a disclaimer: this scenario is extremely rare! If your neighbor has a tree that seems diseased or ill-fated, express your concerns to your neighbor. Tell them that you feel that your home is in jeopardy of being damaged by their tree. But keep in mind that a person can’t be forced to remove a tree.

If you have serious concerns about your safety, you may wish to get the tree evaluated by a professional and then send a certified letter to your neighbor requesting the removal of the tree. This will put your insurance company in a stronger position to argue your neighbor’s negligence in the event of a claim.

Scenario 5: A tree falls on the car

If a tree falls on a car, the comprehensive coverage of the vehicle owner’s auto policy will apply. As in the examples illustrated above, generally the owner of the tree is not responsible. If your tree falls on your neighbor’s car, your neighbor’s car insurance should pay the claim if your neighbor carries comprehensive coverage. If your neighbor’s tree falls on your car, your comprehensive coverage applies.

The problem is that comprehensive coverage on an auto insurance policy can be waived, and many drivers opt to decline this important protection in order to save money. So, if you have car insurance but you don’t buy comprehensive coverage as part of your policy, the damage from a falling tree or branch would not be covered.