Big tree on your property? Better to check your insurance coverage before it breaks down

CALGARY – When a severe storm swept through parts of southern Ontario on August 26, the old maple in Valerie Falcone’s front yard was one of the casualties.

“I would say half was destroyed. It was just in pieces and strewn all over the lawn, ”said Falcone, who lives in Toronto’s Alderwood neighborhood. “One of the big branches hit the gutter in front, and the gutter is hanging lightly now. “

This is not the first time Falcone and her husband have suffered damage to trees as a result of high winds and devastating rains. Three years ago bad weather swept away another huge branch of the same maple tree. He landed in a way that blocked the Falcones’ front door until they paid to have him removed.

In St. Catharines, owner Sarah McBride has also sustained tree damage on several occasions – the most recent incident being a May storm that threw large branches all over her yard, narrowly missing her parked vehicle. There was also a 2019 storm that sent part of a tree crashing into its garden fence, forcing a complete fence replacement.

“We had three major incidents with tree branches falling, barely missing or even hitting our property,” McBride said. “It was storm after storm, and it cost a lot. “

“It’s not uncommon at all. In fact, it’s becoming more and more common as our weather conditions change, ”Gordon said. “We’ve had some really devastating storms. “

While most homeowners like the idea of ​​a large old tree on their property, it can be costly in the event of a fall. Experts advise people to check their insurance coverage and consider preventative maintenance if they have any concerns.

Most home insurance policies will cover the cost of damage caused by windstorms, which includes property damage from trees as well as removal of tree debris.

Glen Gordon, a certified arborist at Tree Doctors in Toronto, said Falcone and McBride’s experiences are not at all unusual. He said in the last week of August alone he responded to more than 60 calls for cleaning up storm damage and removing fallen trees.

In some cases, the problem is small enough that it is not worth going through insurance. The Falcones, for example, chose to pay $ 500 to bring in a crew to clean up the mess out of their pocket, rather than paying their deductible.

In more extreme cases, however, having insurance is a must.

“A few months ago we had a situation where a large black locust fell on a house in Toronto. And that job, with the crane, cost over $ 25,000, ”Gordon said.

Sometimes the offending tree comes from a neighboring property, which can be confusing. But Rob de Pruis, director of consumer and industry relations at the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said the owner whose property was affected should be the one calling his insurance company, even if it is the tree of his neighbor which has fallen.

De Pruis said the homeowner’s insurance company will be the one to pay for the damage, although it may explore avenues for recovery if it feels the other party – the owner of the tree – has been negligent.

There are instances where a tree owner could be held liable for damage, such as if a neighbor repeatedly expressed concerns about a rotten or damaged tree and the tree owner chose to do nothing. on this subject. But these cases are rare, said de Pruis.

“If there was a strong windstorm and it uprooted the tree, you, as the owner of the tree, didn’t do anything wrong,” de Pruis said. “So don’t willingly accept responsibility. “

Since a fallen tree has the potential to be a dangerous hazard as well as a costly nuisance, Gordon said it’s wise to choose prevention whenever possible.

“It’s worth bringing a tree company in, taking a tour and making recommendations for pruning,” Gordon said. “Because often failures in trees occur because of structural problems that could have been corrected at an earlier stage. “

For her part, Falcone said she and her husband are wondering if their troublesome maple should fall off.

“We don’t want to, but maybe we will have to think about it,” she said. “So far the damage has not been significant, but who knows what the future might bring us?

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 9, 2021

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Justin D. O'Neill

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