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Does home insurance cover tree root damage?

Alex Ritchie avatar
Alex Ritchie
- 5 min read
Does home insurance cover tree root damage?

Key highlights

  • Home insurance policies generally do not cover tree root damage.
  • Coverage for tree damage in home insurance policies may include fallen trees and branches caused by a covered event like a storm.
  • Damage to pipes or drains caused by tree roots may be covered under the "Escape of liquid" provision in some insurance policies.
  • Home insurance policies do not often specifically cover you for tree root damage. Instead, if your home is insured, your policy may include coverage for tree damage contingent on it being caused by a storm, or other event covered by insurance - even if the tree is not on your property. 

    It’s always worth going through an insurance policy’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) with a fine-tooth comb before you sign on the dotted line. 

    What tree damage does your home insurance cover?

    In Australia, trees on your property are part of the Great Australian Dream. However, it’s not uncommon for trees to cause a range of problems for homes, including damage from tree roots, or falling branches during storms.

    You may have even noticed that your pipes and septic systems have been blocked by tree roots (particularly common for homes with older pipes) or that there are cracks inside the foundations. 

    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 this is the case, chances are your insurer may not cover the costs. 

    In Australia, tree damage coverage in home insurance policies may include:

    Damage caused by tree roots 

    Unfortunately, home insurance policies typically do not cover damage caused by tree roots affecting your home or its surroundings, such as structural damage to floors and walls, or the foundations being damaged by thick root systems

    Fallen trees and branches

    Damage caused by fallen trees and branches are typically included by insurance policies for homeowners, particularly if they fall as a result of a covered event, such as a storm or flood. It’s best to check the policy ahead of time to find out if you’ll be covered for related costs, such as removing fallen trees and branches or uprooting tree stumps. 

    However, if a tree suffers root rot that causes it to fall fully or partially onto your home, your insurance policy may not cover the resulting damage as this damage may have been preventable. Also, if a tree is uprooted in a storm but does not affect any part of your home, your insurer may not pay to remove it from your property. In this case, you’ll typically need to pay 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 cover the damage to your home.

    Damage to pipes or drains 

    Tree roots commonly block pipes and drains by growing inside them. If your insurance policy includes ‘Escape of liquid’, this specific tree root-related event may be covered, as the trees may cause water from pipes or plumbing to suddenly “escape” into your home. Escape of Liquid due to tree roots in your pipes may fall under a water damage claim, depending on the insurance company.

    Tree lopping or pruning

    Unfortunately, damage to your home from tree lopping or pruning (whether done by yourself or through local council approval) may not be covered by your insurance policy. Any damage that happened while you were cutting or trimming parts of the tree may be seen as your responsibility.

    What to keep in mind about tree damage

    Your actual tree damage coverage will depend on your specific insurance policy. It's important to carefully review your policy documents to fully understand the extent of your coverage and any exclusions that apply.

    If you have trees growing on or around your property, you could 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. Severe storms can also uproot some trees altogether, posing a danger to your home. 

    Even if you spot a potential problem tree ahead of time, removing it may not be easy. Homeowners may need to obtain approval and/or a permit from their local council. If you feel a tree is likely to damage your home, and cutting or pruning it will not minimise the risk, you can talk to your local council about removing the tree.

    When should you file a tree root damage insurance claim? 

    If your home suffers damage due to a tree, the first thing to do is to assess and document the damage, as you’ll need these details for your insurance claim.

    Your claim’s success may depend on the circumstances in which your home is damaged, as well as the cover your policy offers. For instance, a falling branch may cause a pipe to burst, in which case you may have to file a claim for water damage. If a branch falls on your home during a storm, your claim may be considered as storm damage. But if a branch falls when you’re trying to trim it, your insurer may 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. Usually, before processing your insurance claim, your insurer will seek to verify that the damage caused to your home could not have been predicted or prevented ahead of time.

    As always, 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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    Product database updated 22 Jun, 2024

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