Last updated June 24, 2010
When it comes to the trees, shrubs and plants around a house, homeowners often don’t know what their home insurance policies cover.
Your home insurance policy might cover damage to your landscaping under certain circumstances. A standard policy covers damages to “trees, shrubs and other plants” resulting from fire, lightning, explosion, riot or commotion, vandalism and theft. How much it covers depends on various factors.
However, keep in mind that coverage for landscaping doesn’t apply in every situation. For example, if a severe windstorm brings a large tree crashing down on your house, the insurance will cover removal of the tree and the repairs to the structure. But most policies won’t cover the replacement cost of the tree itself.
“For claims involving damage to landscaping, a few companies will cover up to 5 percent of the house’s insured value,” explains Loretta L. Worters, Vice President of the Insurance Information Institute. “Some insurers don’t cover trees and landscaping because of the inability to value landscaping. Its vulnerability makes it difficult to establish a premium.”
Do you need additional insurance?
Pay close attention to what your policy promises to cover. According to Worters, coverage is often limited to $500 per plant, up to 5 percent of the coverage on the home. For instance, a policy of $200,000 on a home would result in $10,000 maximum coverage for landscaping.
If you have rare or expensive plants, or trees that have been standing for hundreds of years, you might consider additional coverage tacked onto your home insurance policy that specifically covers your unique landscaping. “An endorsement can be added to a standard policy, which increases the per item limit to $1,000 for each tree, shrub, or plant,” Worters points out.
Riders that protect against wind, snow and hail are also available. It may be a good investment if you have elaborate landscaping or expensive structures under the ground, such as an irrigation system. Remember, trees ripped out by their roots during storms can damage everything in their path.
Protecting the resale value of your home is another good reason to look into additional coverage. A review of regional studies conducted by research scientist Kathleen Wolf at the University of Washington in Seattle found that mature trees on the property could boost a home’s selling price by up to 15 percent.
If you already have significant landscaping damage that is not covered by your home insurance policy, there are other options that might help you recoup some of the loss. When it’s time to file taxes, you might be able to claim a loss on your federal income tax.
Before you start the major cleanup and replacement, contact an arborist for an estimate of damages. The estimate will not only help your tax preparer in the spring, but will also give you an idea of the amount of landscaping insurance you might need in the future.