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Does home insurance cover tree root damage?

Does home insurance cover tree root damage?

In Australia, the presence of trees on your property can be a pretty sight, especially with our beautiful native trees and the animals that call them home. However, a storm can cause branches to fall off trees, which can cause severe damage to your home.

A severe storm can even uproot a tree altogether, posing an even greater danger. If your home is insured, your policy will likely include coverage for such damage as long as the storm or other incident causing the tree to fall is covered, even if the tree is not on your property. You may want to check the coverage limit to make sure it is sufficient to pay for all necessary repairs.

Will my home insurance policy cover all kinds of tree damage?

Your home insurance policy may cover any tree damage triggered by a covered incident. However, any damage that happened while you were cutting or trimming parts of the tree will be seen as your responsibility.

Similarly, if a tree suffers root rot causing it to fall fully or partially onto your home, your insurance policy will not cover the resulting damage. A simple way of checking if your policy will cover tree-related damage to your home is to assess if the damage could have been prevented by maintenance or watchfulness on your part.

If you have trees growing in the vicinity of your home, you should consider monitoring the trees from time to time for any signs of ageing or rotting. For example, a tree branch may begin to stress a wall or window, and you may not realise the potential for damage until there’s an actual crack. If you feel a tree is likely to damage your home, and cutting or pruning it will not minimise the risk, you should talk to your insurer about removing the tree.

When should I file a tree root damage insurance claim? 

The first thing you need to do if your home suffers damage due to a tree is to assess and document the damage, as you’ll need to add the details to your insurance claim. For instance, a falling branch may cause a pipe to burst, in which case you may have to file a claim for water damage.

Again, the branch should have fallen due to a storm or another incident which is covered by your home insurance policy, and your claim may be considered as, say, storm damage. If it fell when you were trying to trim it, your insurer will likely deny your insurance claim.

While you may receive a settlement that covers removal of debris from your home, you may need to pay for clearing or removing the damaged tree. Also, if a tree is uprooted in a storm but does not affect any part of your home, your insurer may not pay for removing it from your property.

In such a case you’ll have to pay for an arborist to take care of the tree out of your own pocket. If the tree stood on someone else’s property, and their home insurance policy includes liability coverage, you may be able to have them to cover the damage to your home.

You may not be able to file an insurance claim if the tree fell due to an earth movement such as an earthquake, which the average home insurance policy does not usually cover. Usually, your insurer will seek to verify that the damage caused to your home could not have been predicted or prevented, before processing your insurance claim.

  • You should consider reading the insurance provider’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to understand the coverage limits for the various incidents that are likely to result in tree damage to your home.

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This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Alex Ritchie before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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