Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

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coalcracker
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Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by coalcracker »

In my periodic reevaluation of insurance needs, I got a preliminary quote from a reputable company that I was leaning toward pursuing. However, when a rep did a walk around of my property (I was not home at the time), they told me the underwriters would not insure given the proximity of trees to my home.

I have a few tall trees that are within 15-20 feet the house, but nothing I (nor my current insurer, I presume) had considered an imminent risk to the home. The trees are all healthy and we contract with an arborist to maintain them. When pressed if there was something specific I could address to move forward, the rep was cagey and vague, talking about taking a few trees down and making sure nothing was near the house.

I'm not really considering taking trees down for insurance purposes, but I wonder if I am underestimating the risk they pose to my house? Or is the insurance company just being very selective with the clients they underwrite?
WyomingFIRE
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by WyomingFIRE »

It could be forest fire-related. I don't know where you live. In some areas out West, there is a "defensible space" requirement
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coalcracker
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by coalcracker »

WyomingFIRE wrote: Wed Jun 16, 2021 6:31 am It could be forest fire-related. I don't know where you live. In some areas out West, there is a "defensible space" requirement
I'm in humid, western PA in the suburbs. Can't imagine this would be the case.
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lthenderson
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by lthenderson »

Type of tree would make a big difference in my book. I live with a mature red oak within 20 feet of my house but would not do so with a mature silver maple. Some trees are considered weak limbed, shallow rooted, etc. and don't hold up as well in storms as others.
Last edited by lthenderson on Wed Jun 16, 2021 6:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
OnTrack2020
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by OnTrack2020 »

I think you are underestimating the risk. Trees and branches can break/fall during any storm--ice storm, wind storms, etc. And they can and do fall on the roof. We have quite a few trees. We've had a tree fall on our house during a rain/wind storm. A few years ago, prior to renewal time, it was required by our current insurance company that we trim back some of the trees that were close to our home, so we trimmed back any branches over the roof line.

Trees can be a source of frustration. I will never own a home again with trees close to the house.

Our previous insurer finally stopped writing in our state due to, what I'm pretty sure was, all the storm damage. You have an option to get rid of/trim trees or find another insurance company who will underwrite your home.
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markjk
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by markjk »

We had what I'd consider a medium sized tree fall on our house about 13 years ago. The tree was still alive at the time but just happened to rot in the right place. The insurance payout was substantial even though it didn't look like bunch of damage. Color matching and replacing portions of the siding and fixing up gutters, etc. I could see why an insurance company would be selective in something like this. Not all companies look at various risks the same way. There is really nothing you can do about it from an insurance perspective except shop around.

For me, that experience was enough of a hassle that when we moved, I made sure trees weren't close to the house. It's probably an overreaction on my part honestly and I realize it. But, once it's happened, it's hard to not think about it.
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Tubes
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by Tubes »

OnTrack2020 wrote: Wed Jun 16, 2021 6:38 am I think you are underestimating the risk. Trees and branches can break/fall during any storm--ice storm, wind storms, etc. And they can and do fall on the roof. We have quite a few trees. We've had a tree fall on our house during a rain/wind storm. A few years ago, prior to renewal time, it was required by our current insurance company that we trim back some of the trees that were close to our home, so we trimmed back any branches over the roof line.

Trees can be a source of frustration. I will never own a home again with trees close to the house.

Our previous insurer finally stopped writing in our state due to, what I'm pretty sure was, all the storm damage. You have an option to get rid of/trim trees or find another insurance company who will underwrite your home.
I agree for the most part. We live in the south east USA and trees almost sneak up on you. They grow like weeds, literally. Live in a home for a few decades and you don't notice just how enclosed your home becomes, UNTIL the hurricane hits, even 100s of miles inland. Then you end up with 10s of large trees on your house, roof punctures, soffit cave ins and corners of the house ripped away.

Although my insurer (Amica) is OK with my trees, I cut down many that were too close to the house for my own peace of mind. We had a bad hurricane in 1996 which basically was year long recovery, due primarily to trees. Since then, the trees have only grown taller. I don't want to deal with the damage when 1000s of others are dealing with it at the same time, so I took out quite a few of them in the last few years. It wasn't cheap, but provided some calm, and now I can grow vegetables again since I have some sun. (EDIT: I see markjk has the same idea. It is both a hassle and trauma to have tree damage on a house. I don't think it is an overreaction to worry about this.)

We still have trees, they are just in the back of the lot. Some could still contact the house, but in general I've lowered the risk of full-on, take-the-corner-of-the-house-out damage.
eigenperson
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by eigenperson »

Whether a tree is likely to fall while still healthy depends on the tree and where you live. There are some trees that probably shouldn't be within 15 feet of a house. Others are really quite safe. Eucalyptus, for example, is famous for falling down. It would be a much bigger risk than a wind-resistant live oak.

It's unlikely that whoever came to your house actually assessed the risk more carefully than eyeballing it. My guess is that they wrote a note to the effect of "trees too close to house" which was then accepted by the underwriter. It doesn't matter whether the trees were actually too close to the house or not. Some idiot thought they were, and the insurance company understandably doesn't care enough to investigate further.

Your arborist should have a better idea of the real risks.
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Tubes
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by Tubes »

eigenperson wrote: Wed Jun 16, 2021 7:29 am Whether a tree is likely to fall while still healthy depends on the tree and where you live. There are some trees that probably shouldn't be within 15 feet of a house. Others are really quite safe. Eucalyptus, for example, is famous for falling down. It would be a much bigger risk than a wind-resistant live oak.
I think this is region specific. Although certain trees are more hurricane resistant than others, I can guaranty you that no species is hurricane proof in the Southeast USA. I saw every possible type have damage in our Cat 3 and above hurricanes. Living in hurricane prone areas presents a challenge.

And here's the weird thing. A coastal live oak tends to grow in a stunted manner by the southeast coast. Move the same tree inland, and something happens with the conditions (they love our soil and moisture) and it can grow into a wind prone monster. Mother nature has been letting forests get blown down here through the eons. They bounce back with rich nutrients from the rotting blow-down debris and the cycle repeats every few decades.

In the west (Eucalyptus?), my regional concern would be wildfires, including the wind events generated by them. Western live oaks may not grow high and are probably a good choice.
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by Broken Man 1999 »

Might be a regional thing.

I'm in Florida, and our 14 home subdivision is home to many, many mature oak trees. On my lot alone there are four between our lot and neighbors, and another four in front and back yards.

All of them are within striking distance of our home.

FWIW, trees have never been mentioned by our insurance providers.

We do clean them up every couple of years, removing deadwood and unruly limbs. I even replaced my shingle roof in the back area with a metal roof after a limb opened up an area that leaked. Freak high wind thunderstorm dropped a big limb, not a hurricane even.

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afan
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by afan »

We had a big tree come down a few years ago. By pure luck, it fell away from the house and did limited damage. Had the wind been blowing the other way we would have had serious damage that would have cost a fortune to repair, plus having the roof opened up in the middle of a torrential storm and damage resulting from that. There almost certainly would have been major structure compromise.

After that we have kept a more careful eye on the other trees around the house and under an arborist's guidance had two others taken down. We miss them but the risk was too great.

Our homeowner's insurance company never made a peep about the trees while they were up. I don't think they did any sort of checkup to see how a property was maintained.
By the time we switched insurance companies the trees were gone, so I don't know how they would have reacted to them.

We are far from hurricanes, tornadoes, or other such hazards. This was just a big rain storm with a lot of wind, at for our area.
Tree damage is real and falling trees are dangerous. I would take them seriously.
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by TomatoTomahto »

We had to take down 8 beautiful red oaks last year because they were dead/dying (result of bad drought and gypsy moth conspiracy). We also had to do surgery on another one. We are planting replacement oaks and this fall will harvest acorns for planting https://habitatpodcast.com/habitat-podc ... r-testing/

I started reading Douglas Tallamy’s book The Nature of Oaks, and one thing I learned is that oaks are much more wind resistant when they are close together; their roots intertwine and the total is greater than the sum of the parts. The trees will be somewhat smaller as a result of sharing sunlight, but will be stronger. Who knew????
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Tubes
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by Tubes »

TomatoTomahto wrote: Thu Jun 17, 2021 8:09 am We had to take down 8 beautiful red oaks last year because they were dead/dying (result of bad drought and gypsy moth conspiracy). We also had to do surgery on another one. We are planting replacement oaks and this fall will harvest acorns for planting https://habitatpodcast.com/habitat-podc ... r-testing/

I started reading Douglas Tallamy’s book The Nature of Oaks, and one thing I learned is that oaks are much more wind resistant when they are close together; their roots intertwine and the total is greater than the sum of the parts. The trees will be somewhat smaller as a result of sharing sunlight, but will be stronger. Who knew????
I believe that about the clusters. Good point!

I will also say that, based on my experience, Loblolly pines don't do this intertwine thing. They will fall independently in the woods, based on how wet their feet are at the time of the wind event.

We had a large single (specimen) willow oak in our yard that started declining. Multiple, highly regarded, tree firms tried to treat it. The end result was my wallet was $1500 lighter. Because trees grow so easily here, my new rule is when a tree declines for any reason, it is gone. Sorry trees. Your replacement is waiting.
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vanbogle59
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by vanbogle59 »

"Curse him, root and branch! Many of those trees were my friends, creatures I had known from nut and acorn; many had voices of their own that are lost forever now. And there is a waste of stump and bramble where once there were singing groves. I have been idle. I have let things slip. It must stop!" - Fangorn
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by TomatoTomahto »

Tubes wrote: Fri Jun 18, 2021 7:47 am We had a large single (specimen) willow oak in our yard that started declining. Multiple, highly regarded, tree firms tried to treat it. The end result was my wallet was $1500 lighter. Because trees grow so easily here, my new rule is when a tree declines for any reason, it is gone. Sorry trees. Your replacement is waiting.
I agree on the “too little, too late” efforts to save a failing tree. However, I do wish that the previous owner had reached into his pocket to prevent the devastation of a bumper crop of gypsy moths; those moths essentially killed 8 large and majestic red oaks (admittedly weakened by previous droughts). He was penny wise and pound foolish; an ounce of prevention . . . and all of the other sayings :D

My planting acorns at age 70 is comical, but I guess it could be viewed as life affirming. :beer
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Murgatroyd
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by Murgatroyd »

We literally live within a forest and are on our 3rd insurance carrier in 8 years. Each one has inspected the exterior and commented on the trees. We also use an experienced arborist. We have massive oaks and walnut trees overhanging the house. The closest branch is probably at least 30,40 feet above.

What they are all saying is the tree types, location and distances from the house are fine. Another comment no one has mentioned above is the angle those branches come off the trees. Anything approaching perpendicular or 90 degrees is considered a weaker, more vulnerable branch. As opposed to a sharper angle.

All that said, you certainly could have had a bad assessment.
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by pshonore »

Murgatroyd wrote: Fri Jun 18, 2021 8:36 am We literally live within a forest and are on our 3rd insurance carrier in 8 years. Each one has inspected the exterior and commented on the trees. We also use an experienced arborist. We have massive oaks and walnut trees overhanging the house. The closest branch is probably at least 30,40 feet above.

What they are all saying is the tree types, location and distances from the house are fine. Another comment no one has mentioned above is the angle those branches come off the trees. Anything approaching perpendicular or 90 degrees is considered a weaker, more vulnerable branch. As opposed to a sharper angle.

All that said, you certainly could have had a bad assessment.
Could be worse; the Emerald Ash Borer is killing Ash trees in record numbers in New England. Of course the other problem is hurricanes that are preceded by lots of rain; that softens the ground and takes the trees down, roots and all.
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Tubes
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by Tubes »

pshonore wrote: Fri Jun 18, 2021 9:52 am Of course the other problem is hurricanes that are preceded by lots of rain; that softens the ground and takes the trees down, roots and all.
This is the concern in my area. Angles of branches and all that don't matter much in hurricanes. It is the whole tree blow-down that really does major damage.

Of course, keeping the tree healthy with proper branch position and non-crowding is important for regular thunderstorm wind events and minor ice storms.

But in hurricanes and major ice storms (over 1/2"), height and distance are all that matter.
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by tenkuky »

vanbogle59 wrote: Fri Jun 18, 2021 7:57 am "Curse him, root and branch! Many of those trees were my friends, creatures I had known from nut and acorn; many had voices of their own that are lost forever now. And there is a waste of stump and bramble where once there were singing groves. I have been idle. I have let things slip. It must stop!" - Fangorn
Thou dost quote Treebeard.
He lives in Fangorn forest.
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by tenkuky »

tenkuky wrote: Fri Jun 18, 2021 5:18 pm
vanbogle59 wrote: Fri Jun 18, 2021 7:57 am "Curse him, root and branch! Many of those trees were my friends, creatures I had known from nut and acorn; many had voices of their own that are lost forever now. And there is a waste of stump and bramble where once there were singing groves. I have been idle. I have let things slip. It must stop!" - Fangorn
Thou dost quote Treebeard.
He lives in Fangorn forest.
Sorry, Tolkien police😝
Edit: I stand corrected.
He is also called Fangorn.
Mea culpa
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by traveling_salesman »

coalcracker wrote: Wed Jun 16, 2021 6:35 am
WyomingFIRE wrote: Wed Jun 16, 2021 6:31 am It could be forest fire-related. I don't know where you live. In some areas out West, there is a "defensible space" requirement
I'm in humid, western PA in the suburbs. Can't imagine this would be the case.
How did it go in your neighborhood with the recent storm? That might give you a sense of risk.
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vanbogle59
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by vanbogle59 »

tenkuky wrote: Fri Jun 18, 2021 5:20 pm
tenkuky wrote: Fri Jun 18, 2021 5:18 pm
vanbogle59 wrote: Fri Jun 18, 2021 7:57 am "Curse him, root and branch! Many of those trees were my friends, creatures I had known from nut and acorn; many had voices of their own that are lost forever now. And there is a waste of stump and bramble where once there were singing groves. I have been idle. I have let things slip. It must stop!" - Fangorn
Thou dost quote Treebeard.
He lives in Fangorn forest.
Sorry, Tolkien police😝
Edit: I stand corrected.
He is also called Fangorn.
Mea culpa
"my name is growing all the time, and I've lived a very long, long time; so my name is like a story. Real names tell you the story of things they belong to in my language, in the Old Entish as you might say. It is a lovely language, but it takes a very long time saying anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to.”

You know who. :beer
UpperNwGuy
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by UpperNwGuy »

I live in a neighborhood full of trees. They sometimes fall down on houses. If I were an insurance company, I would not want to insure a house against that risk
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by Vtsax100 »

pshonore wrote: Fri Jun 18, 2021 9:52 am
Murgatroyd wrote: Fri Jun 18, 2021 8:36 am We literally live within a forest and are on our 3rd insurance carrier in 8 years. Each one has inspected the exterior and commented on the trees. We also use an experienced arborist. We have massive oaks and walnut trees overhanging the house. The closest branch is probably at least 30,40 feet above.

Could be worse; the Emerald Ash Borer is killing Ash trees in record numbers in New England. Of course the other problem is hurricanes that are preceded by lots of rain; that softens the ground and takes the trees down, roots and all.
This. I have had countless tall, beautiful, probably 50-75 year old ash trees dying behind my house due to the borer. It makes me sad to see it. They do cause a threat to me and I have had to have them felled occasionally. I was surprised my insurance has never mentioned it. But they make me uneasy. They are deadly. So down they go.
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by RickBoglehead »

coalcracker wrote: Wed Jun 16, 2021 6:20 am I have a few tall trees that are within 15-20 feet the house, but nothing I (nor my current insurer, I presume) had considered an imminent risk to the home. The trees are all healthy and we contract with an arborist to maintain them. When pressed if there was something specific I could address to move forward, the rep was cagey and vague, talking about taking a few trees down and making sure nothing was near the house.

I'm not really considering taking trees down for insurance purposes, but I wonder if I am underestimating the risk they pose to my house? Or is the insurance company just being very selective with the clients they underwrite?
When is the last time your current insurer walked the property? Mine was 2007 when I bought it...
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Tubes
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by Tubes »

RickBoglehead wrote: Sun Jun 20, 2021 8:31 am
coalcracker wrote: Wed Jun 16, 2021 6:20 am I have a few tall trees that are within 15-20 feet the house, but nothing I (nor my current insurer, I presume) had considered an imminent risk to the home. The trees are all healthy and we contract with an arborist to maintain them. When pressed if there was something specific I could address to move forward, the rep was cagey and vague, talking about taking a few trees down and making sure nothing was near the house.

I'm not really considering taking trees down for insurance purposes, but I wonder if I am underestimating the risk they pose to my house? Or is the insurance company just being very selective with the clients they underwrite?
When is the last time your current insurer walked the property? Mine was 2007 when I bought it...
For me, Amica just pulled up google streetview and that was enough. A coworker also changed to Amica and someone did a quick site check in person.
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coalcracker
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by coalcracker »

UpperNwGuy wrote: Sun Jun 20, 2021 8:14 am I live in a neighborhood full of trees. They sometimes fall down on houses. If I were an insurance company, I would not want to insure a house against that risk
I would agree if it were me, as an individual, insuring a specific home. Some large minority of homes have a tree on the property that is close enough to fall on them, and someone is insuring all these homes. Insurance companies must be making money insuring these “risky” homes or they would not be doing it.
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coalcracker
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Re: Preferred risk insurance company will not underwrite my home because "trees too close"

Post by coalcracker »

RickBoglehead wrote: Sun Jun 20, 2021 8:31 am
coalcracker wrote: Wed Jun 16, 2021 6:20 am I have a few tall trees that are within 15-20 feet the house, but nothing I (nor my current insurer, I presume) had considered an imminent risk to the home. The trees are all healthy and we contract with an arborist to maintain them. When pressed if there was something specific I could address to move forward, the rep was cagey and vague, talking about taking a few trees down and making sure nothing was near the house.

I'm not really considering taking trees down for insurance purposes, but I wonder if I am underestimating the risk they pose to my house? Or is the insurance company just being very selective with the clients they underwrite?
When is the last time your current insurer walked the property? Mine was 2007 when I bought it...
I bought the house in 2017, and as far as I know they have never been here in person.
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