Trees provide many benefits and enhance our property’s curb appeal. However, if a tree falls or is planted too close to your house or your neighbour’s, breakage may occur. Does your home insurance cover you in the event of damage caused by a tree?
What home insurance covers and under what circumstances
Damage caused by an event beyond anyone’s control is under the responsibility of the person who sustained the damage. For example, if strong winds cause one of your healthy trees to fall on your neighbour’s house, your neighbour will have to pay for the repairs or file a claim with his insurer.
However, if it is demonstrated that the tree had become fragile because you failed to maintain it, even if it fell as a result of high winds, the damage to your neighbour’s house will be covered by the civil liability insurance that’s included in your home insurance.
6 things you can do to prevent problems
Regular, adequate maintenance is key to preventing damage and injuries caused by your trees and to preserving good relations with your neighbours. The following steps are essential:
- Avoid planting a tree too close to buildings and power lines. Over time, the branches can touch the walls, the roof, or the power lines. In windy conditions, it could damage your property or power lines. It’s helpful to know the characteristics of the particular tree species to determine the ideal place to plant your tree. That way, you can see it grow strong, without causing damage to neighbouring buildings. You can also consult Hydro-Québec’s Choosing the Right Tree or Shrub guide.
- Do your tree branches brush against your house or a neighbour’s? Don’t delay! Cut off the branches or call in a professional tree pruner. If the tree is near power lines, contact Hydro-Québec.
- Tree needles, branches, leaves or fruit can get stuck in gutters and window wells and interfere with water drainage. Clear these items from your tree residue at least twice a year (in the spring and fall) to facilitate water drainage and prevent water infiltration.
- You should not plant trees less than three metres from underground utility pipes. Small roots could infiltrate pipes and form a dense clump as they grow which, as it expands, could block underground waters evacuation. The roots of water-loving trees like poplars, willows and silver maples naturally grow toward pipes. Don’t know the placement of underground utility pipes on your property? You can contact a qualified contractor, who has the equipment necessary to locate underground networks.
- Prune damaged branches: They can pose a danger to people, vehicles and buildings. This chore can be done during the spring and early in the summer, when the branches in question are easier to locate.
- Maintenance pruning should generally be done in the spring or early summer, depending on the species, i.e. before the start of their annual growing period. That way, the tree heals more quickly. For information on the best time for pruning, consult the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada website.