Trees and home insurance

Home insurers may ask about trees and vegetation due to issues like subsidence, heave, third-party liability and falling trees and branches. Find out more...

Key points

  • Check your policy for assumptions made about trees, even if you haven't been asked a question about trees when arranging insurance
  • Trees close to a property could cause subsidence, removing them could cause heave
  • Insurance should cover subsidence and/or heave, but a claim may make future policies more expensive and harder to find
  • Policies usually provide cover for damage caused by falling trees and branches

Trees can be an attractive addition to any garden and provide homeowners with privacy, but it's important to be aware of the impact they could have on your home insurance.

Insurance for homes with trees nearby

Homeowners with trees in close proximity to buildings won't necessarily find their home's insurance premium any costlier, or the process of taking out insurance any more complicated.

When comparing policies some - but not all - insurers will ask how far away trees are from your home, and it's important to check the terms and conditions of your policy to see what the insurer's position is towards trees.

Some policies may put assumptions in place about cover for damage caused by trees, so check these assumptions before taking out cover to make sure you meet your provider's criteria.

Property dangers posed by trees

Damage to houses caused by falling trees and branches is generally covered by home insurance policies as standard, but check the wording of your cover for any exclusions.

When you compare home insurance with Gocompare.com you'll be asked whether, to the best of your knowledge, the property has ever been affected by subsidence, landslip, heave, or tree root damage

Something that can be more problematic is the part of the tree you can't see - the roots growing under the ground.

Many homeowners might not realise that houses affected by tree root damage can be as problematic to insure as those hit by things such as subsidence.

When you compare home insurance with Gocompare.com, you'll be asked whether, to the best of your knowledge, the property has ever been affected by subsidence, landslip, heave, or tree root damage.

It's vital that you answer this question honestly as failure to do so could invalidate your policy, and any history of tree root damage could have a big impact on your search for the right policy.

Damage to buildings by tree roots

Tree root damage is caused by the roots of trees and shrubs pushing through, under, or against a property's foundations or external walls.House

For roots to place physical pressure on a house's foundations they must be very close to the structure.

How trees can cause subsidence

If you have trees growing near your home, the damage they cause may not be directly because of the tree itself.

Damage to house foundations is more likely to be caused by soil, particularly clay-type soil, shrinking when drying and causing the foundations to sink.

This problem can be exacerbated by trees removing water from the soil, accelerating the drying and leading to subsidence.

Did you know...?

  • A general rule is to plant a tree at least as far away from a property as the tree's expected full height

To counter this, tree roots and shrubs shouldn't be planted too near to property.

As a general rule, consider planting a tree at least as far away from a property as the tree's expected full height.

Also take into account the type of tree or vegetation - ash, willow, elm, poplar and oak trees all suck up a great deal of water, while broad-leaf trees are generally more thirsty than evergreens.

Heaving

Removing a mature tree from dry ground can in some cases cause more damage than leaving it alone, as it could lead to a process known as 'heaving'.

This is where the water balance in the soil has become reliant on moisture being removed by the tree's roots - if the tree is removed the soil will swell with additional moisture.Thatched cottage

Before removing mature trees seek professional advice from a qualified arborist or surveyor.

This particularly applies if the tree's existence pre-dates your property.

If you're worried about a tree causing subsidence in the future, get advice from an arborist.

There shouldn't be any reason to cut down a healthy tree whose roots are causing no problems.

Cover for tree root damage, subsidence and heave

If your home is damaged by roots or you experience subsidence or heave, your home buildings policy should provide you with cover if you need to make a claim.

Did you know...?

  • An insurer shouldn't ask you to remove a tree unless they believe it will cause damage

Most home insurance policies offer subsidence cover as standard, and as subsidence claims can often be very large they will usually send out a loss adjuster to assess the claim and the cause of the problems.

If your insurer advises you to remove a healthy, unobtrusive tree as a precautionary measure and you refuse, you may be held responsible for the cost of any future damage.

An insurer shouldn't ask you to remove a tree unless they believe it will cause damage, but if you disagree it's always a good idea to enter into a dialogue and come to an agreement.

Be aware that many policies carry an increased excess for subsidence claims.

When Gocompare.com looked at 328 home insurance policies listed on the matrix of independent financial researcher Defaqto on 10 September, 2014, it found that the majority of policies (316) had a subsidence excess of between £501 and £1,000.

Getting insurance after heave, subsidence and tree root damage

Although your insurer should cover your initial tree root damage or subsidence claim, insuring a property in future with a history of this type of claim can be difficult.Holiday home

While you should still find cover your choice is likely to be more restrictive and the policy more expensive.

We hope you try Gocompare.com's easy-to-use service for a quote, but if you struggle to find an appropriate policy online you might want to think about contacting a specialist broker or insurer.

Trees on neighbouring property

If you're concerned about a neighbouring tree or shrub, first have a friendly chat with your neighbour.

If that doesn't work and you have concerns, you may need to establish your legal position or, perhaps, come to a compromise to share the costs of any removal.

Did you know...?

  • Before removing a mature tree you should confirm that you have the legal right to do so

When planting trees you should also take neighbouring buildings into account - if roots from your trees affect neighbouring homes you may be liable for the damage.

Most home insurance policies cover third-party damage as standard, but you'll need to pay the excess and your premium may increase when you come to renew your policy.

Legal rights when removing trees

Before planning to remove any mature trees, confirm that you have the legal right to do so.

Many mature trees are protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), and you'll need to apply to the council for consent to cut it down.

Your conveyancer should discover whether trees are protected by a TPO when you buy a property.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) offers advice when buying a house on the placement of trees and whether they may become an issue, and it also offers guidance on suitable planting distances.

If you're considering buying a house with trees on or near the land, a structural survey of the property should tell you whether the house is under any threat from nearby trees.

By Emily Bater