Homeowners are typically in the dark when it comes to whether landscaping is covered under their homeowners insurance policies.
Your home insurance policy might cover damage to your landscaping under certain circumstances. Under a standard homeowner policy, landscaping is protected from the following perils: fire, lightning, explosion, riot or civil disturbance, vandalism, criminal mischief, and theft. How much it covers depends on various factors.
Keep in mind that coverage for landscaping doesn't apply in every situation. Insect or pest infestation, wind damage, and other weather damage are typically excluded from coverage. 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.
Loretta L. Worters, Vice President of the Insurance Information Institute explains, “For claims involving damage to landscaping, a few companies will cover up to 5 percent of the house’s insured value.” Pay close attention to what your policy promises to cover. Standard homeowner insurance policies often have a per-item limit as well as a per-incident limit. A basic policy may cover $250 per item with a maximum of $1,000 per incident. More generous policies may provide coverage of $500 or more per item, with a limit of up to 5 percent of the house's insured value. Worters goes on to say, “Some insurers don’t cover trees and landscaping because of the inability to value landscaping. Its vulnerability makes it difficult to establish a premium.”
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.
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.