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Trees, Storms and Property Insurance

Trees are impressive additions to any property, providing shade, beauty, and habitat for wildlife. But during a storm, those same trees can transform into potential hazards to your property. High winds and heavy rain can cause branches to snap, trees to topple, and serious damage to your home or injuries to yourself and others. This article explains what signs of trouble to look for in trees, along with some helpful information if you do have a tree that causes damage to your property. Here's what you need to know as the summer storm season approaches.

Identifying Trouble Trees:

  • Hollow Spots: Trees with large hollow sections in their trunks or major branches are prime candidates for failure. These hollows weaken the structure, making them more susceptible to breaking under heavy winds or snow.

  • Decaying Detectors: Look for signs of decay like soft, spongy wood, mushrooms or conks growing on the trunk, and extensive cracking bark. These are all indicators of internal weakness. Mushrooms on the root flares also can be a cause of concern.  

  • Leaning Towers of Timber: Leaning trees can be a red flag, especially if the lean has worsened over time. This could indicate root damage or instability in the soil.

  • Poor Looking Canopy: Trees with smaller or less leaves than normal may be in poor health. If the canopy looks bad, often this means the root system could be failing as well,  making the tree more susceptible to toppling over in a storm.  

Understanding Risk:

  • Inherent vs Assumed Risk: Every tree has an inherent risk - some species are naturally more prone to storm damage than others. But there's also assumed risk, which is the risk we create through neglect. Regular maintenance, like pruning, reduces wind resistance and removes weak branches, significantly lowering the assumed risk.

Navigating Homeowners Insurance

We spoke with Eric Peterson of American Advantage Peterson Group about what homeowners can expect when dealing with tree damage due to storms and navigating their insurance. Here are his top tips:

  • Coverage: While all insurance companies are different, most homeowners insurance policies only cover a small amount for tree removal ($500 or $1000), but only if the tree damages real property such as the house, garage, or fence. Only a select few companies will pay for tree removal without any property damage. All homeowners policies include a small amount of coverage for trees and shrubs in case they are damaged in a wind storm, vandalized, or hit by a vehicle. They will not cover trees that die due to drought, disease, or pests.

  • Reimbursement for damage: They want the property owner to mitigate the damage as much as possible immediately after the storm and will reimburse for reasonable expenses (think tarps for roofs, plywood for windows/walls, etc.). It is important to save all receipts from materials bought to do this.

  • Responsibility: If a neighbor's tree falls on your property, you're responsible for the removal unless it was deemed a hazardous tree and the neighbor intentionally did not take action to remove it before it came down in a storm.

  • Document, document, document: After you make sure that everyone, including pets, in your home is safe you will want to see if there is any structural damage to the roof. Second, you should take plenty of pictures and videos of the damage and report the incident as soon as possible to your agent. They'll be able to advise you on what coverages are available to you.

  • Take action: Minimize any future damage by calling Hoppe Tree Service to have us remove the tree as quickly as we can. 

By being proactive and understanding the factors that can contribute to tree failure, you can transform your trees from potential liabilities into strong, resilient allies that can weather strong storms. Remember, a healthy tree is a happy tree, and a happy tree is much less likely to become a stormy nightmare! Contact Hoppe Tree Service at 414-257-2111 or request a quote from one of our Certified Arborists to see if your tree is at risk.

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