Trees are wonderful things that bring character, shade and life to your garden, but when they grow too big and are too close to your home they can cause problems – both practical and insurance-wise.
The practical issues that insurers worry about can be placed primarily into two categories: falling/dropping damage and subsidence/heave.
So, when an insurance company considers the risk profile for your property it will often be interested in the trees that surround it and the damage that may have been caused by them in the past, as well as the potential for issues in the future.
Insurers are risk-averse, so it is often their default to assume risk and either to slap a premium on your policy or to limit their cover in some way to limit their risk exposure. But it does not always have to be that way. This article looks at what insurance policies tend to worry about and how your friendly neighbourhood tree surgeon may be able to help you keep those insurance costs down and your property properly protected.
My neighbour’s tree caused damage to my property
Some insurance policies have a third party element to them, which means that you can make a claim against your neighbour’s insurance if their tree causes damage to your property, but others will not, so you may need to rely on private legal recourse. Either way it will be important to your case for you to be able to evidence that the damage was caused by your neighbour’s tree and that this was as a result of negligence, i.e. ignoring signs of weakness that led to it falling into your lounge or that their neglect of its maintenance resulted in the root system gaining too much of a hold on your side of the fence and causing subsidence. You can also claim on your own policy, but there will be an excess to pay and your own insurance policy will go up significantly in price from then onwards.
Tree or branch falling damage
Most insurance policies will cover you for unforeseen damage from your trees. So, if a strong wind knocks a tree over into your roof, smashing a few windows along the way or if a lightning strike causes branches to fly off into your living room, you’re probably covered. Branches and trees can fall at any time, even without a strong wind, flooding or lightening, but in such circumstances your insurance company may have some additional questions for you about the way you look after your trees as the signs may have been there for a while if the weakness had been caused by infection or infestation. And, if you fail to regularly maintain your trees, the root systems can grow and can cause damage or the branches can become unsustainably heavy, and in extreme circumstances cause the tree to overbalance and fall.
Subsidence or heave
Insurance policies usually cover this sort of damage, but a claim will often mean a significant increase in future insurance costs. Subsidence is caused when the roots of a tree suck too much moisture from the soil, drying it out and making it unstable and this can impact on the stability of the foundations of your home. If you’re worried that a tree is too close to your home or getting too big, your insurance company may ask you to remove it or you might decide to do so as a preventative measure. However, removing a tree can sometimes cause more damage than leaving it where it is, which is why it’s so important to get professional advice before taking action. When you remove a tree, you change the soil environment in which it stood. The moisture your tree used to absorb will be left in the soil, resulting in it becoming waterlogged and it will expand, causing heave, and this can cause cracking in foundations and walls.
Your friendly local tree surgeon
Tree surgeons and arborists know far more about trees and their effects on properties than most insurers do. So, if you have a tree you worry may be an issue for your home or for the insurance companies you’re hoping to approach for a policy to cover your property, then call in a friendly neighbourhood tree specialist. They can conduct a thorough survey of your trees and produce a report that will provide a detailed and complete view of the condition, maintenance plan and safety of your trees. This, and regular maintenance will help you to avoid any issues, or to head them off before they become a real problem. But the report can also be used to reassure nervous insurers – if you can provide evidence to show that there are no problems for them to worry about, you can avoid increased costs and/or policy restrictions.
To book a survey and consultation with one of our ARB Approved arborists for advice on your trees or to book our tree surgeons to prune/maintain or fell your tree(s), call us on 0208 292 8992.