When preparing for hurricane season, Floridians have learned to buy bottled water, batteries and canned goods. But sometimes, Floridians don’t look up and think about the trees around their homes and businesses.
“We all recognize that if a major hurricane blows through your community, inevitably a lot of trees are going to be knocked down,” said AARP’s Florida Dtate Director Jeff Johnson. “We may even take steps to trim or remove trees that might fall on our homes. But what about other trees?”
Homeowners’ insurance policies usually cover the cost of removing a fallen tree from a home if the home is damaged. But as residents of North Florida learned after Hurricane Michael, trees or storm debris that don’t fall on a home may not be covered.
Yet these trees may still pose steep costs. If a falling limb or tree smashes a fence or a deck, your policy may not cover it. You may have to pay for tree removal services out of your own pocket – as well as repairs for the smashed property.
And the cost could be steep. National home maintenance websites suggest the average cost to remove just one tree is $715, though costs vary widely based on the size of the tree, the difficulty in moving it and how accessible the work area is. The bigger the tree, the higher the cost can be -- a large, spreading live oak would be more costly than a small pine.
If a homeowner had a dozen big trees down, the cost could be easily be more than $10,000 – and since insurance generally doesn’t cover such costs, it could be coming out of your pocket.
For trees that fall into the street, be sure to check up with your city to see who will be responsible. If your city takes responsibility, it may be for only the part of the tree that’s in the street. Anything left over, you would have to take care of.
Even if your tree falls on your neighbor’s property, your insurance may cover that as well, depending on the circumstances.
When filing a claim for a fallen tree, take photos from different angles to help establish the extent of the damage. Be very descriptive when providing details and never go near any trees tangled in power lines.
If you don’t have insurance covering trees and landscape, consider trimming or cutting trees down as early as possible during hurricane season. If you don’t want to cut down trees, you also could talk to an insurance agent about adding additional coverage to your homeowner’s policy to cover tree removal.
These days, many Floridians rely on the Internet to help them look up contact information for local services. But remember that after a major storm, you might not have internet service for quite some time.
So keep a list of tree service companies and their contact information in your storm kit, as well contact information for home repair services or roofing companies. It also is a good idea to have cash on hand.