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Ok so I am going to "go out on a limb" to talk about tree damage and coverage a bit. A timely subject and sure to get some attention with the weather damage that occurred in the Metroplex last night and today. First let me say that an ounce of prevention...well you've heard the saying. Some trees are more prone to damage than others. Bradford pears have inherent traits that cause them to split easier than other trees. Hardwoods like Oaks are less susceptible but not many trees will escape all weather damage. When planting trees always consider their mature size. You may be looking forward to getting shade from a tree planted next to your home but believe me that tree is looking forward to spreading as far and wide as God intended. Someday all trees will be damaged and die. If it dies suddenly and falls, as in a weather related event, will it be far enough away from your home? Trees require maintenance; you really cannot just plant and forget them. All limbs must be pruned away from your home to avoid damage. Even a small limb that constantly moves with the wind can wear off the granules on your shingles and void your roof's warranty or worse- cause a leak. Even a large shrub like a Crepe Myrtle, planted too close to your home can be a problem. As a rule of thumb whatever the mature width of your tree is, plant it that far away from your home. And stay away from what are known as "trash trees" such as Cottonwoods, Mulberry, and Mimosa. These softwoods are high maintenance and have short life-spans.

Ok back to the insurance issue. Well you’re probably not going to like my answer. Most homeowner policies do not cover trees for weather related damage. The common perils for tree and shrub coverage are: Fire or Lightning, Explosion, Aircraft, Vehicles not owned or operated by a resident of the residence premises, Vandalism and Malicious Mischief, Riot and Civil Commotion and Theft or attempted theft.

The coverage on most Homeowner policies in Texas allow for between 250 and 500 dollars per tree or shrub but only for the above.

But wait! I do have some good news! In cases where your tree damages your home or property or falls on your neighbor’s driveway you may have some coverage. Coverage for Debris Removal may apply to a felled tree when a covered peril causes the tree to fall and the fallen tree also damages your covered property.

In some case, as in the Texas HO3 policy, Debris Removal applies to your trees felled by ice or even your neighbor’s tree if the tree falls on top of your driveway and prevents you from getting your vehicle in and out. The most this coverage pays is 1,000 and no more than 500 dollars for any one tree. Most policies also pay for the cost of protecting your home from further damage so if a tree falls on your home, and you avoid climbing up on an icy roof like most of us who are of sound mind, you could pay a professional to temporarily patch a whole and remove limbs from your roof etc. The above examples are usually covered without a deductible. Remember your policy is the final authority. I am writing this as fast as I can and cannot be held to be perfectly accurate since I am shivering and need another cup of hot coffee. I hope you all have survived Ice-mageddon storm of 2013. To think we all wished for cold weather last summer...

Damon Castillo

PS: I would be happy to email or fax you the policy samples showing the coverage I described. Or better yet, let me compare your home policy to our companies' policies! You can get online quotes at www.covermylife.com or just call or send me an email. If you want to be real nice but don't want a quote, " like" my business facebook site "Integrity Insurance Services!"

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