If a tree falls, who pays to clean it up?

Posted July 28, 2011 7:00 p.m. EDT
Updated September 13, 2018 1:38 p.m. EDT

— Hurricanes, tornadoes and ordinary thunderstorms can all tear up trees. But no matter why a tree falls, there's almost always a question about who's responsible for cleanup.

Regular homeowner's insurance covers damage to your home from fallen trees.

Insurance pays to remove only trees that hit your house or garage or block a driveway or wheelchair ramp. Plans typically pay up to $500 for tree removal.

When trees fall in your yard, you have to foot the bill to remove them.

Who pays is more complicated for trees on a neighbor's property that fall on your property.

If a healthy tree falls during a storm, whoever has damage or the tree in their yard pays for it. That means that if your neighbor's tree falls on your house, you and your insurance company pay for the damage. If your tree falls on your neighbor's property, the neighbor pays for the damage.

However, if that tree was clearly dead or dying, the owner of the tree is responsible for the damage.

Pay attention to trees in your yard and on your neighbors' property. If one in your yard threatens a neighbor's property, take the tree down.

If a neighbor's tree threatens your home, let them know. If they don't respond, send a certified letter to them, and take pictures of the tree. Then, if it falls and does damage, you have proof that your neighbor knew about it.

Vehicles hit by trees and falling debris are covered by auto insurance with comprehensive coverage.