Why you may still have to pay if your neighbors tree hits your house

Why you may still have to pay if your neighbors tree hits your house.

KETTERING, Ohio (WRGT) -- Dangerous storms hit the Miami Valley knocking over trees, and leaving many homeowners cleaning up the mess. Depending on how the trees lands, it could create a financial problem.

"We were thinking the yard is beautiful. We have it exactly like we want,” described home owner Cindy McSherry, “Then two hours later this is what it looked like."

Her neighbor’s tree crashed onto her property damaging her home and garden. After crews chopped it up, her backyard looked more like a heap of firewood.

"It hit the deck, this deck up here, and did damage. It did $5,000 damage to our roof," McSherry said.

Cindy soon discovered insurance can become complicated when it comes to fallen trees. If a tree is dead, it’s up to the homeowner who owns the tree to keep it safe. In Cindy’s case, the fallen tree from her neighbor’s yard was considered a live tree which means it was a healthy tree before the storm.

“My neighbor was not responsible for any of the damage,” McSherry lamented, “We found out if you have a wind or hail storm your deductible goes up, so we had a $1,000 dollar deductible.”

Kyle Bergsman sells insurance at Wagner Insurance Agency. He said situations like Cindy’s can be gray areas for insurance companies. Coverage can vary from home owner to home owner, and depending on the “live” tree owner’s insurance, in some cases both insurance companies could get involved.

“His insurance company might say his limit is this, and my company might have to pick up the tab for the difference,” explained Bergsman hypothetically.

In the event this happens to you, McSherry's provider encouraged her to send a notarized letter to her neighbor that identified any remaining dangerous trees in his yard in case it happens again. Bergsman advised one of his clients to do the same, saying it can protect you. He recommends homeowners take pictures for documentation.

“So if that tree comes down, or the limb comes down on his house, we are not on the hook to pay the claim,” Bergsman said.

Bergsman suggests people call their insurance company at the start of storm season to check their coverage. He said circumstances often change, and coverage can become inadequate. A prior storm could have caused damage to trees around a home, or a neighbor could make changes to their property that could affect yours in the future. He encourages people to ask insurance agencies hypothetical questions if they are concerned about coverage of something in or around their property.

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