Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What does being a Good Neighbor mean?

First, this is not a post about my good buddies at State Farm.  It is also not a post about all the rules to be a good neighbor.  I just want to talk about being a good neighbor when it comes to trees.

It seems in our neck of the woods (pun intended) we have had a lot of trouble with wind and trees lately.  Due to that I am getting several calls about how to handle situations with our insured's trees as well as  our insured's neighbors trees.

Here is a basic rule to live by, as a homeowner you are to due what a reasonably prudent person would do to maintain the safety of your home.  That means you take care to make sure someone is not injured on your property.  So if you have a tree that looks like it is damaged, rotten, broken, or other wise  presents a potential problem by falling on people or property then it is your responsibility to take care of it. Some times that means having to pay someone to cut it down. 

Now if  a perfectly healthy tree is blown down in a hurricane and lands on your neighbors shed you are not responsible.  But if your neighbor had noticed that that tree had been struck by lightening previously and had told you then, guess what, you are responsible as you were negligent.

The shoe goes on both feet so if it is your neighbors tree same rules apply. If your neighbors perfectly healthy tree is blown down on your roof in a hurricane, your insurance will handle it.  If you had gone to them and told them it was broken and leaning and they haven't done anything about it then we will probably pay for it (less your deductible of course) and then try to go back to them and get the money back.

That's the basics, here are some Frequenlty asked Question:

Q.  My favorite tree blew down in my, will my insurance cover that to clean it up and put in a new tree? 

A. With very few exceptions, there is no coverage for a tree that is damaged by wind.  If the tree falls on your house then there is limited coverage to take it off but not for the actual tree

Q. I have some trees getting ready to fall, will my insurance pay to take them down?

A. Sorry, but no.  I have heard those little talking heads on tv say this works but I don't think they work in the insurance industry!  This comes under the premise that it is one's responsibililty to take care of their own property, just like your auto insurance won't pay for tires so you don't skid off the road, your homeowners policy is not meant to maintain your property.  If insurance companies were to start paying to cut down trees two things would happen.  First, rates would be way higher than they are now. Secondly, we would live in a desert because they would love to have zero trees to fall and cause claims.

Q. Can and insurance company cancel me because of problems with trees.

A. Yes,  if  a company thinks insuring your home is an above average risk due to proximity of trees they have the right to not insure you.   They sometimes ask a client to cut some trees in order to maintain coverage.

Q. What if my neighbor says they won't cut down the trees that are endangering my property? 

A.  First this situation is no fun!  I am assuming you have been over with a fresh baked apple pie and talked sweetly to them and they have said "Sorry, I'm not cutting my trees".  Now you probably should officially notify them in writing that you are concerned about the safety of  your property due to their trees and and you would like them to remove them.  If they don't, this gives you a little better legal standing if something does happen.  You might consider paying to cut them your self (expensive but less trouble than them destroying your house) of you could consult an attorney.

As always, if you are insured with Cline Hall Agency or would like to be and have any questions on this subject give us a call!