When Your Tree Falls in Your Neighbor's Yard

The neighbor, not you, will have to file an insurance claim.

Editor's note: A series of devastating storms hit the mid-Atlantic states June 29 and downed hundreds of trees and left millions without power. I've received quite a few questions from readers about insurance coverage for fallen trees. Here's a column I wrote in 2010 with all the information.

I have an old tree on my property, and my next-door neighbor is worried that it could fall over in a big windstorm. Whose homeowner insurance pays for cleanup if my tree falls into my neighbor’s yard?

Good question, especially because hurricane season begins on June 1. If your neighbor’s property is damaged by your tree, then he should file a claim with his insurance company. But in most cases, nobody’s insurance policy will pay if the tree falls but doesn’t hit anything. If that happens, it’s probably up to you to pay for cleanup if you want to keep your relationship with your neighbor cordial

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If the tree damages your neighbor’s house or garage, his homeowners policy will generally pay to fix the damage to the structure. If your tree damages your neighbor’s car, then the comprehensive-coverage portion of your neighbor’s auto insurance usually pays to repair it. The same goes for your policies if the tree falls on your property.

Even when insurance covers tree damage, however, most policies pay only $500 to $1,000 for tree removal. It can cost a few thousand dollars to haul away a fallen tree, so keep some money in your emergency fund just in case.

For more information about homeowners insurance, see Prepare Your Homeowners Insurance for Storm Season.

Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.