A major storm can leave a lot more than damaged property and automobiles in its wake. If a storm turned your property into a field of debris, with downed trees, broken limbs and broken patio furniture, the cost of cleanup can be high. In many cases, your homeowner’s insurance policy won’t help pay the bill.
Homeowner's Coverage and Debris
Although types of coverage vary between policies, the typical homeowner’s insurance policy is only concerned with the structures on your property. Because of this, if a tree falls on your home or a downed branch rests against an insured structure, your policy will pay for its removal. Many policies will also cover removal of debris that blocks a driveway or a handicapped-accessible entrance, but they won’t pay for removal of any other debris that winds up on your lot. Even then, most policies cap their coverage at $500 or $1,000.
If you’re concerned about the cost of debris and tree removal from your yard, a little advance planning may save you out-of-pocket expenses in the aftermath of a storm. Although many insurers won’t offer debris removal as part of their standard homeowner’s policies, they allow policyholders to purchase additional levels of coverage, known as endorsements. You can purchase an endorsement that extends coverage to removal of debris on your property or replacement costs for downed trees.
No matter what endorsements you add, you’re still have to pay your policy’s deductible amount before your insurer helps foot the bill for any qualifying debris removal. In a regular storm, this may not be much of an expense, but when the rubbish was caused by a hurricane, you’ll need to cover your hurricane deductible, which is typically much larger than the standard deductible, as it’s based on the total replacement value of your home.
Because your insurance will likely only help pay for removal costs of debris that’s touching an insured structure, you should know what you can expect to be covered. In addition to your residence, most policies also protect stand-alone garages, sheds, gazebos and covered decks. Some policies also cover fencing, although the fence must be attached to your home to receive coverage.
Wilhelm Schnotz has worked as a freelance writer since 1998, covering arts and entertainment, culture and financial stories for a variety of consumer publications. His work has appeared in dozens of print titles, including "TV Guide" and "The Dallas Observer." Schnotz holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Colorado State University.