A crane lifts tree removal foreman Francisco Villanueva to inspect a house damaged by a fallen tree in Sacramento on Sunday.
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The winds and rains that have battered California this month have brought down trees and branches on houses, garages, cars and, tragically, people.
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When a tree trunk or limb damages your property, one of the first questions you’ll likely have is, “Who’s going to pay for this?” There’s a good chance you’ll have to shoulder at least some of the cost.
In some cases, you may have to pay the entire bill. In other cases, however, the net cost may be zero.
Renters across Southern California are dealing with flood damage from the recent series of storms. This way they can protect themselves and their personal property.
The most likely help is an insurance policy if something is damaged by a falling tree branch. Any damage to a structure on your property – a house, garage or shed – potentially applies to homeowners policies. Damage to items in said house, garage, or shed may be covered under your homeowner’s or renter’s policy, as is damage to items in your vehicle. Damage to the vehicle can be covered by car insurance if you have the right option.
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A homeowner’s policy only covers tree damage if it is caused by a windstorm, lightning or hail. An earthquake requires a separate policy, as does a flood or mudslide. Tenants policies have similar limitations.
One notable exception that’s important in California: If the tree is part of the debris from a wildfire, you can claim that the “proximate cause” was the fire (which is covered by the homeowner’s policy), not the flood (which is not ).
Another important issue is the condition of the tree. If it was healthy and well maintained, the damage was probably caused by the wind shaking it hard enough to send its limbs flying. This is considered an event beyond your control and is covered by your standard insurance policy, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
One big thing for rain-soaked Californians is that the IRS is giving many of them an extra month to file their 2022 tax returns.
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However, you still have to pay the policy deductible. If the tree was on someone else’s property, your insurer may seek reimbursement from that person — and possibly refund your deductible, the Insurance Information Institute reports.
If the claim is paid out, insurance premiums could rise in the future, as homeowner’s insurers base their premiums in part on their customers’ claims history. In fact, if you file multiple large claims, you may have trouble finding an insurer willing to cover your home.
If the tree was unhealthy and planted on your property, your insurer may argue that the proximate cause of the damage was your poor maintenance, not the storm. In this case, you must pay the entire bill. (And even if it’s a healthy tree, if the trunk or limbs fell without hitting anything, you’re responsible for the cleanup. Your insurance won’t pay to remove the tree unless the covered structure is damaged or the road is closed.)
If the unhealthy tree was on someone else’s property, you should seek reimbursement from that person’s home insurance policy, Progressive Casualty Insurance Co. says on its website. But he adds: “Remember that negligence is sometimes difficult to prove. Your case will be stronger if you have previously asked your neighbor to remove the rotting tree or sent him a certified letter from a tree expert stating that the tree needs to be removed.
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Those L.A. County property owners who experience losses of more than $10,000 may be eligible for a property tax reassessment. They can also get a break for missing the April payment deadline for their property tax bill.
The first question here is whether you have “comprehensive” coverage. The state of California requires liability insurance for drivers; collision and comprehensive insurance is optional.
4:07 PM 17 Jan 2023 An earlier version of this story said California requires drivers to carry collision and liability insurance. The state only requires coverage for liability.
If you have this coverage, the second question is whether the tree in question was on your property. If so, your auto insurer may deny your claim if the tree was not well maintained or if it was not caused by wind, hail or lightning.
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Provided it’s not your tree, or at least not a sick tree in your yard, and you have comprehensive coverage, you’ll still have to pay the deductible. However, under California law, auto insurance rates cannot go up after a claim if you are not at fault.
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Jon Healey is currently the senior editor of the Utility Journalism team, which tries to help readers solve problems, answer questions and make big decisions about life in and around Los Angeles. He was an opinion writer and editor for The Times from mid-2005 to August 2021, and reported on technology news from 2000 to mid-2005. Insurers are withdrawing from the riskiest areas as the threat of climate change grows It is becoming more and more expensive and difficult to get home insurance. , as losses from climate-induced disasters such as wildfires and hurricanes increase. And the solutions are not always politically popular.
A row of mailboxes with evacuation notices during the July 2022 Oak Fire in Mariposa, California. Many residents in the area are losing their home insurance because of the growing risk of wildfires. David Odisho/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption
Large wildfires have begun to burn more frequently in California, creeping closer to Beth Pratt’s home near Yosemite National Park. So Pratt did what homeowners in fire-prone areas are supposed to do: install a metal roof, replace wood siding with laminate, install a water tank and fire hose, and clear the vegetation near his house. Pratt says he drained his savings to make his “home for life” fireproof.
But it didn’t matter. Earlier this month, Pratt received a letter from Allstate, his home insurer of 31 years, saying his coverage was being terminated due to the threat of wildfires. “I see companies need to make money. I don’t have a problem with that. Raise your rate,” Pratt says. “But just dropping people — you know, it’s scary. It makes us feel extremely vulnerable.”
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Beth Pratt stands outside her home near Yosemite National Park. Pratt installed a metal roof, replaced wood decking with laminate, installed a water tank and fire hose, and cleared vegetation near the house to make it fireproof. Despite this, his insurance provider issued him with a wildfire risk. Beth Pratt hide caption
Pratt, like hundreds of thousands of California homeowners, now faces a weaker safety net in the face of the state’s growing climate threats. In the past two years, several major insurers, including Allstate and State Farm, have scaled back their home insurance business in California to avoid paying billions in wildfire damage or stopped selling new policies altogether. Homeowners like Pratt have found that their old insurers have decided not to renew coverage.
California is not alone. Insurance companies in states such as Colorado, Louisiana and Florida are cutting back on business to protect themselves from a surge in losses as climate change fuels more intense disasters. Earlier this month, AAA’s insurance division announced it would not renew some “higher risk” home insurance policies in Florida, and Farmers Insurance said it would stop offering new home insurance policies in the state and not renew thousands of existing ones. in part due to increasing losses from hurricanes.
Last July, a structure burned during the Mariposa County Oak Fire. David Odisho/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption
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Millions of homeowners across the country have to find different types of coverage, which usually mean higher prices with less protection.
If people can’t get insurance, they can’t get a mortgage. And families without adequate home insurance often struggle after disasters. Some have to move because they can’t pay for home repairs or face long-term financial damage.
A number of factors have converged to make it more difficult to get the right, reasonably priced home insurance. Government agencies regulate the insurance industry and try to keep premiums low for residents
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