Spring storm season is here. Do you know who is responsible if storm damage affects your house and yard? Let’s dive into what action you should take if a storm harms your property.
First things first: Survey the damage and check on vulnerable neighbors
Once you can safely exit your house, work to survey the damage to your house, yard and to neighboring properties. Be sure that any damage isn’t imminently threatening to you and your family. This might include a power line down or a tree that’s fallen on the structure.
If you have elderly or vulnerable neighbors, check on them to be sure they are safe before you go into fix-up mode.
Next: What does homeowner’s insurance cover, anyway? When should I make a claim?
Most homeowner’s insurance policies cover damage caused by wind, snow, hail, tornado, fire and lightning. This means that if your home’s siding is left pocked after a hail storm, the insurance company will be responsible for fixing it or replacing it. Similarly, if high winds pull shingles off your roof, that damage would be covered.
Homeowner’s insurance does not cover damage caused by floods. So, homeowners in flood zones are encouraged to purchase a separate flood insurance policy. In most cases, the flood insurance must be purchased 30 days (or longer) before a claim is made.
If you experienced major damage, it will be exceedingly clear that you must call your insurance company. And in most cases, it’s not a bad idea. After all, you may not be able to see the damaged shingles from the ground, but a professional would be able to assess the damage for you.
There are two main reasons not to file a claim after a storm has caused damage to your house:
- If the damage isn’t covered by your policy
- If the damage is so minimal that it will cost you less than your deductible to fix it
Everything you need to know about a tree falling down after a storm
Downed trees are very, very common after a big spring storm — and their coverage depends on where it falls and what it lands on. Stay with me because it can be tricky to determine who’s responsible for storm damage from a fallen tree.
For the most part, homeowner’s insurance only comes into effect if your property is damaged. That means:
If a tree falls free and clear, in your yard or into your neighbor’s yard, it will likely not be covered by insurance. It will, unfortunately, be your responsibility to get the tree cleared and removed. But what if a tree on your property falls free and clear into your neighbor’s yard? In that case, it’s good etiquette (and good karma) to either pay for the removal or to offer to split it.
If a tree falls and damages a property, including the home or garage, then the homeowner’s insurance policy would kick in. This is regardless of where the tree fell from. This means that if your neighbor’s tree falls directly onto your roof, your homeowner’s insurance would be responsible for covering it. (And hopefully your neighbor will be kind enough to send you an “I’m sorry” bottle of wine to drink as you await the repairs.)
All in all, storm damage can be an unexpected pain and figuring out who’s responsible for cleanup or cost can be tricky. Work with your insurance when necessary, and treat your neighbors with a little extra kindness as you fix up your street and community.
P.S. If need help translating your policy, or advice on how to clear up tree damage before you sell your home, I can help!