When the Ice Man Cometh, Followed by the Insurance Man


Living in the south, I only have to contend with icy conditions once a year or so. I’m oblivious to all that life in colder climes entails, including how to handle such neighborly issues as whose ice-laden branch fell off whose trees causing X amount of damage that whose insurance will need to cover.

Here’s what the experts say. Do not try to assign blame. Just contact the insurance company. Homeowners insurance policies cover damage to the specific structure regardless of who owns the tree. Avoid a neighborly spat and just deal with the insurer.

If the tree falls and doesn’t damage the house, you are both lucky and unlucky. Your homeowners insurance won’t help defray the costs of having it removed — or replaced. (Interestingly enough, if the damage caused to the tree is from a fire caused by lightning or another accidental cause, it would be covered.)

When the house has been damaged:

– Take photos of the accident scene before anything has been moved or touched.

– Take temporary steps to protect the home from further damage, like covering a hole in the roof with a tarp. Keep receipts for any expenditures associated with securing the structure.

– if you are forced to stay somewhere other than the home because the damage makes it uninhabitable or unsafe, save receipts for lodging as well.

– Get at least two estimates from contractors you trust to compare to the insurance estimate so you have an immediate basis for negotiation.

And, of course, you can save yourself a great deal of potential worry by trimming back the branches that overhang the roof before winter ice ever becomes a problem.

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