Am I Covered?

Whenever we are in our backyard we see across the fence a huge, old tree in the middle of our neighbors backyard where the branches have started to fall off sometimes. When we were gone on vacation a couple weeks ago, we came home to find a branch had fallen into our backyard and broken a plank of fencing. It was negligible damage, but there is a bigger branch hanging over our yard that has me watching it closely (with my good eye).
We keep hoping the neighbor will trim the tree since branches are often falling into their backyard, but its unlikely since the owners bought the foreclosed house and have inconsistently had renters in it. Anyway, I happened to come across some information that will help us deal with the problem when it becomes a problem. The Federal Citizen Information Center has a handy guide outlining exactly what typical homeowners insurance policy (HO-3) covers.
As far as a tree falling -
- If the neighbor's tree fell on our fence or house, then our insurance will cover the damage and pay for the tree removal.
- If our (or our neighbor's) tree fell in our yard without hitting a structure, then we're on our own.
- If our tree fell on our house, then our insurance will cover the damage and pay for the tree removal.
- If our tree fell on our neighbor's house, then their insurance will cover the damage and pay for the tree removal.
In other words, if your property gets damaged, your insurance pays regardless of who the tree belonged to. But if the tree doesn't do any damage, insurance doesn't get involved.
Here are some other handy things to know -
A pipe bursts and water flows all over my floors. Am I covered?

The HO-3 covers you for accidental discharge of water from a plumbing system. You should check your plumbing and heating systems once a year. While you are covered for damage, who needs the mess and hassle?
What if water seeps into my basement from the ground, am I covered?
No. Water seepage is excluded under the HO-3. And if the water seepage is not due to a flood you will not be covered under a flood policy. Seepage is viewed as a maintenance issue and is not covered by insurance. You should see a contractor about waterproofing your basement.
A neighbor slips on my sidewalk or falls down my porch steps and threatens to take me to court for damages. Does my policy protect me?
Yes. The policy will pay for damages, if a fall or other accident on your property is the result of your negligence. It will also pay for the legal costs of defending you against a claim. Also, the medical payments part of your homeowners policy will cover medical expenses, if a neighbor or guest is injured on your property. You should check to see how much liability protection you have. The standard amount is $100,000. If you feel you need more, consider purchasing higher limits.
A tree falls and damages my roof during a storm. Am I covered?
Yes. You are covered for the damage to your roof. You are also covered for the removal of the tree, generally up to a $500 limit. You should cut down dead or dying trees close to your house and prune branches that are near your house. It's true that your insurance covers damage, but falling trees and branches can also injure your family.
During a storm, a tree falls but does no damage to my property. Am I covered for the cost of removing the tree?
Your trees and shrubs are covered for losses due to risks like vandalism, theft and fire, but not wind damage. However, if a fallen tree blocks access to your home you may be covered for its removal. Decide if you need extra insurance for the trees, plants and shrubs on your property. You may be able to purchase extra insurance, which will not only cover the cost of removing fallen trees, but will also cover the cost of replacing trees, and other plants.
If a storm causes a power outage and all the food in my refrigerator or freezer is spoiled and must be thrown out, can I make a claim?
The general answer is no. However, there are a number of exceptions. In some states, food spoilage is covered under the homeowners policy. In addition, if the power loss is due to a break in a power line on or close to your property, you may be covered. You should check with your agent to find out whether you are covered for food spoilage in your state. If not, you can add food spoilage coverage to your policy for an additional premium.
I have children away at college. Are they covered by my homeowners insurance?
If they're full-time college students and part of your household, your insurance generally provides some coverage in a dorm, typically 10 percent of the contents limit. If they live off campus, some companies may not provide this limited coverage if the apartment is rented in the student's name.
My golf clubs are stolen from the trunk of my car. Does my homeowners policy cover the loss?
Yes. The HO-3 covers your personal property while it is anywhere in the world. However, if your golf clubs are old, you will only get their current value, which may not be enough to purchase a new set. Consider buying a replacement cost endorsement for your personal property. This way you will get what it costs to replace the golf clubs, less the applicable deductible.
Thanks to FCIC for questions and answers

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