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Property insurance typically covers damage, not landscaping troubles

So you wake up one morning to find that your favorite oak tree is leaning over the fence and staring at your neighbor. It was a nasty storm last night, and you were the only victim to suffer the consequences. Reality sets in as you stare at the tree. It has to go. The job, however, may be bigger than you can handle. You decide to call in the professionals and get help. You figure it’s cheaper than facing the inevitable chiropractor bill.

What makes things worse is your neighbor’s comments, implying that this whole thing is your fault since it’s your tree that’s lying in his yard. After all, blaming someone else for God’s work is what makes America tick these days. At least the legal system sees it this way. It’s not as if you were playing Paul Bunyan and chopping the tree down and letting it fall on their house. Keep these two scenarios in mind as you read on.

Once you receive the bill for removing the tree it’s not a chiropractor you need but a cardiologist. Good grief, it can be expensive. But what about insurance? Doesn’t one’s homeowners insurance pay for such a thing? Those who have suffered a tree landing on their house and smashing the roof would say yes. This answer would be correct, but the scenario we are talking about is different. Our subject is going to find out insurance won’t pay, typically. I have to say “typically” since there are some companies that try to make their product better and charge for enhancements that may cover some of the charges. Let’s go with the norm in this situation.

Our subject’s tree simply leaned over after a storm and would have to be removed no matter what. It was leaning toward the neighbor’s house but not damaging it. Insurance isn’t going to pay for a tree leaning over a fence if that’s all that happened. That would imply insurance pays for a tree as if it were your home. Insurance wasn’t designed for that. If it had damaged the neighbor’s house, Mr. Neighbor would find out he would have to rely on his own homeowners insurance to have the damages repaired. He can’t blame his neighbors just because the tree was on their property originally. This was a storm, otherwise known as an “act of God.”

If a hurricane ruins all of your trees, what you have is a bunch of ruined trees that need to be cleaned up. If the trees didn’t damage your home, you are not going to be able to rely on insurance to pay for the mess. This is a landscaping issue only. Keep in mind a homeowners policy protects the home and not the oak tree.

Andy Gregory, a co-owner and president of Des Champs & Gregory, Inc., with offices in Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch, specializes in commercial property and casualty insurance and can be reached at (941) 748-1812.

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