Our Northwest

Windstorm topples trees, raises insurance questions

Wednesday, November 18, 2015by  Jon Osterberg

The windstorm that hammered our region the past two days caused plenty of damage, and also aggravated some possible hazards.
     Today, PEMCO is busily helping customers who reported blown-down fences and damaged roofs, some caused by toppled trees. Insurance policies generally cover such damage.
     Typically, insurance policies do not pay to remove hazards that might cause damage.
     What’s that mean? For example, say the wind blows your backyard fir tree onto your roof. That’s likely covered. But let’s say your tree hasn’t toppled over – it’s leaning toward your home, or you notice its roots are bulging upward, indicating the tree is unstable. Until the tree actually causes damage, there’s likely no coverage, whether it’s a PEMCO home policy or anyone else’s.
     So what’s a homeowner to do? Part of being a responsible homeowner includes using your best judgment to limit risks. You caulk around the bathtub if there’s loose floor tile, to prevent dry rot. Or you prune a cracked branch that could crunch your fence if it falls. Or you Firewise your rural property if you live in an area vulnerable to wildfires.
     In the case of a leaning tree, my own choice would be to have it cut down before it has a chance to blow down. Then I’d rent a log-splitter and take comfort knowing I now have ample firewood.
     PEMCO often gets asked, “If my neighbor’s tree falls on my house, whose insurance pays for repairs – his or mine?” We polled Northwest residents four years ago and learned that 82% got the answer wrong. The correct response: Unless negligence is a factor, homeowners assume responsibility for structural damage to their own property, even if the damage results from a neighbor’s toppled tree. Learn more here.

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