This article has been updated from a previous version.
Toronto proudly coins itself as “a city within a park”. With nearly 10.2 million trees, the city boasts one of the most expansive canopies in North America. Unfortunately, the city has often been criticized for its slow approach in the maintenance and pruning of its trees, which arborists stress is crucial to their health and stability.
In fact, two deaths – one as recently as last month – was reported as a result of falling tree branches.
Industry standards state that trees should be pruned every five to seven years. Yet, Toronto tree maintenance and care sits at twice the average industry rate — 15 years.
Apart from personal injuries and death, home and car owners have also faced extensive damages from broken and toppled trees.
Here’s a look at who’s responsible if a tree (or branch) lands on your home or car.
If a neighbour’s tree falls on your property in Ontario, who is responsible?
Do typical home insurance policies include damage from fallen trees?
“In most cases, home insurance policies will cover the cost of removing the fallen tree,” says Eric Hayes, an insurance broker with McDougall Insurance. “As well as taking care of any repairs to your house, additional living expenses such as hotel stays, and restaurant meals incurred while your home is being renovated from the damage.”
He also advises homeowners to double-check whether their policy includes windstorm insurance if they’re concerned about additional weather-related damage. But what if the tree is city property, or from your neighbour’s property?
Despite the fact that the City of Toronto bears legal liability for trees on public land, simply filing a claim against the city doesn’t guarantee compensation for damages. An investigation will take place to assess the maintenance history and state of the tree.
In fact, the City of Toronto outrightly states that if the damage from a fallen or broken tree is due to a storm, your claim will not be compensated by the City.
In the case of a tree from a neighbour’s yard, according to Hayes, if the tree was perfectly healthy and toppled over during a storm, your own home insurance company is still responsible for covering the damage, and not your neighbour’s insurance.
If a tree falls on your car, who is responsible?
Almost as bad as having a tree topple onto your house is having a tree fall on your parked car. Some Toronto car owners may be surprised to learn that they aren’t guaranteed to have damages to their vehicle covered by the City of Toronto.
Just like with home damage, depending on the maintenance history of the particular fallen tree, the owner’s car insurance will be liable to cover costs.
Note that your car will not be covered under liability insurance alone; it must be a comprehensive car insurance policy for you to have some form of fallen tree insurance coverage. The same principle applies if a tree from your yard lands on a neighbour’s car. The car owner’s insurance would pay for the damage claims. Generally, the owner of the tree is not responsible.
Ultimately, it’s important to be vigilant about not only maintaining the health of the trees in your yard but also about reporting any issues you witness with trees on public property, particularly around your house. Not only will this help prevent property damage to your home or car, but it will save you from any potential financial losses, particularly following a storm.
Lastly, a reminder for home and car owners -- double-check with your insurance providers about your coverage. The last thing you want to worry about when you have a giant tree caving in on your roof is a huge home renovation bill.
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