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If a tree falls, you’re paying something    The Columbus DispatchSaturday July 7, 2012

It’s a question that neighbors undoubtedly have been asking each other over the din of chain saws in recent days: Does your insurance cover the cost of removing fallen trees or big branches from your yard?

The answer: It depends.

Storms have battered the state over the past week, uprooting large trees and dumping them into power lines and homes.

Whether insurance covers at least some of the cost of removing the tree comes down to the insurer and the policy the homeowner has. Policies can vary considerably from one company to the next, and homeowners can opt to bolster their coverage if they choose.

“The important tidbit for consumers here is talking to your agent and making sure they understand what is in their policy,” said Angie Rinock, a spokeswoman for State Farm. 

If a tree crashes into the house or some other building covered by the policy, such as a garage, because of wind, hail or ice, the insurer typically will cover the cost to remove the tree, minus the homeowner’s deductible, according to the Ohio Insurance Institute. This is the case regardless of whether the tree was in your yard or your neighbor’s.

The costs of removing the debris usually are covered also if the tree lands on the driveway, blocks access to your home or hits a fence that is attached to the house or garage. The typical maximum coverage is $1,000 or $500 per tree, the industry group said.

If a tree falls on a car parked in a driveway, the policy would cover the removal of the tree. Auto insurance, if applicable, would pay for any repairs to the vehicle.

If, however, the tree falls harmlessly in the yard, many homeowners will find that they will be footing that bill.

“Homeowner insurance is for the structure, building and the contents,” said Mitch Wilson, an institute spokesman.

Grange is one of the insurance companies that does provide some relief for homeowners.

The Columbus-based insurer will pay $500 toward the removal of branches or trees from a yard under its base homeowner policy; $1,000 if the homeowner buys the Signature Home endorsement.

Say the wind causes a large branch to fall in the yard and it costs $2,000 to remove it. The company would apply the deductible and then pay $500 toward the removal, said Dan Rabold, one of the owners of the Thompson-Cunningham Agency in Worthington, which sells Grange products.

“We have received a lot of phone calls and claims,” he said. “It is always good for the customer to talk with their agent, and in most cases the company’s adjusters can be very helpful.”

State Farm typically provides some coverage for tree removal if a tree falls on a house, garage or fence due to wind and then to remove the debris with a limit of $500 toward those costs. Same goes if the tree lands in a driveway or blocks an access point, such as a handicap ramp, due to wind.

There would be no coverage to replace the tree itself.

If the tree falls into the yard and does not damage anything, there is no coverage.

State Auto’s insurance coverage is similar.

It really comes down to the product you purchased,’’ said Kyle Anderson, a spokesman for the Columbus-based company. “Insurance products are intended to cover major incidents, not intended to cover the big limb that falls in your yard.’’

Posted 1:32 PM

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