Why Tree Huggers Might Not Have Enough Insurance

Uprooted Tree from a StormWho doesn’t love their landscaping? Trees, shrubs, and beautiful lawns are all part of the homeownership experience. They often add to the so-called “curb appeal” that’s very important when selling a house. However, if you don’t look carefully at your home insurance policy, you might find yourself in a bad position if there is damage to your landscaping. Most standard home insurance policies have a limitation on the amount of coverage provided for damage to various plantings and can leave you quite short in the event of a loss.

One of the first limitations you will find on a standard home insurance policy is what’s known as a “sublimit” for various outdoor trees, shrubs, and other items. A sublimit is usually a limit on your policy that covers certain categories of property at a lower level than the total policy limit. In this case, the common sublimit for landscaping is usually 5% of the policy’s limit for the dwelling. Therefore, if you insured your home for a $200,000 replacement value, your coverage for damage to the landscaping would be no more than $10,000. Of course, while this sounds like a lot of coverage, it can be quite insufficient if you have very elaborate and expensive plants and trees.

Would you also believe that there’s a further sublimit on the landscaping sublimit on your policy? In addition to the 5% cap, there’s usually a cap on the amount your insurance company will reimburse for any one tree. The per tree limitation is usually $500 and that’s also a problem if you have very large and old trees that need to be replaced. It’s likely that you will only be able to replace your trees with much smaller and younger versions if they are damaged or destroyed.

Another area of coverage on the home insurance policy is for debris removal, including downed trees. Windstorms that damage your home will likely also cause significant damage to the trees in your yard and it can be costly to remove all of them. Thankfully, your policy will pay for the removal of these trees. A nice feature of most policies is that while debris removal is part of the overall policy limit, tree removal is an additional 5% limit in the event debris removal and dwelling replacement are not sufficiently covered by the limit on your policy. This is a situation where the 5% limit works in your favor!

If you find that your home has a significant landscaping exposure, it’s a good idea to speak with your insurance company about tailoring the policy’s limits to something that more approximates your exposure. While the limits described above are standard, that does not mean your insurance company is completely inflexible. Very often, insurance companies can revise their policies to meet the specific needs of individual insureds. The reason they don’t automatically offer these limits is because most homeowners don’t require them. It would then place a greater burden on the insurance company and potentially also increase premiums for everyone when only a few actually need the enhanced coverage.


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