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Storm damage? Tree down? Who pays for the cleanup?

Hundreds of trees are down in the Cincinnati area: how to know if yours is covered
Tree on house fairfax
Posted at 10:51 AM, Jul 07, 2022

Portions of this story previously appeared in a 2018 Don't Waste Your Money report.

Tri-State homeowners will spend the next few days picking up trees and debris that fell during Wednesday's storms.

While the damage was heaviest in tornado-struck Goshen, many other communities from Loveland to Delhi Township to Northern Kentucky are also cleaning up downed trees.

So when a tree falls during a storm, who pays for the cleanup? It all depends on where the tree falls.

Coverage depends on where the tree falls

The Cincinnati Insurance Board says:

  • If a tree landed on your car or your home, call your insurance company and make a claim. That usually falls under "comprehensive" coverage.
  • But if the tree simply landed in your yard, in most cases you have to pay out of pocket to have it hauled away.
  • Insurance will pay for a downed tree only if it hits something, unless you have a separate landscaping "rider."
  • And if your neighbor's tree fell on your driveway or lawn, the law says you clean it up: Sorry, he or she is not responsible.

One case where the state, township, or village may pay to clean it up: if the tree was planted by your town, and is in the 5-foot "right of way" from the street. Call your local offices to find out if it is a tree owned by the town.

Should you call your insurance company?

If it is a minor cleanup, costing just a few hundred dollars, you may want to hold off calling your insurance agent.

If a tree simply falls in your yard, and hits nothing, you probably should not call your agent.

That is because, again, most insurance policies cover tree cleanup only if the tree hits a house, fence or car.

In addition, with most insurers, if you filed a claim in the past three years, a second claim could raise your rates.

Finally, most homeowners insurance has a $500 deductible, so if a claim would be for under $1,000, think twice: You may just want to pay out of pocket.

That way you don't risk a rate increase, and you don't waste your money.

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