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1/18/2012 - Poll: 82 percent don't know who has to pay when tree damages a home

Many homeowners are unsure of the rules surrounding tree damage.

A new survey indicates that a considerable number of Americans do not know who is responsible to pay for property damage should a neighbor's tree fall and damage their house.

The poll, conducted by FBK Research, found that 82% got the question wrong when they were asked whether they or their neighbor was responsible for property damage if the neighbor's tree fell in their house. According to insurance expert Jon Osterberg, unless there are mitigating circumstances - such as if the tree is neglected - the homeowner whose house was hit by the tree typically has to pay for the damage, even if the tree is on the neighbor's lawn.

"With so few homeowners knowing the right answer … we have a great opportunity here to educate consumers," said Osterberg.

He added that consumers should not worry about this happening, however, as most homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for damage to a home resulting from a toppled tree.

However, to avoid the headaches involved in filing a homeowners insurance claim, Osterberg said homeowners should practice tree and shrubbery maintenance. This includes cutting dead or rotting tree branches from trees to prevent them from damaging one's property should there be a violent windstorm.

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