Many commercial arborists have undoubtedly received at least one frantic phone call from a homeowner regarding trees that have branches growing over their house’s roofline. The homeowners might not be worried about those branches; in fact they really enjoy the trees and appreciate the shade and the increase in their property value that those trees provide. But their homeowner’s insurance company is worried about those trees and the branches. The scenario goes something like this:
- It’s time to renew the homeowner’s insurance policy
- The insurance underwriter reviews the property
- The insurance company decides the trees near the dwelling or the branches that grow over the roof of the dwelling pose a threat to the safety of the structure in the event of the storm
- The insurance company sends a letter notifying the homeowner that the trees or the branches over the home MUST be removed or they will no longer insure the property; the insurance company also insists that the removal must be completed by a given deadline.
Translation: the insurance company essentially wants the unnecessary removal of many sound and sturdy tees and branches that possess only moderate or low risk during wind events. These trees may in fact act as a buffer protecting the home during damaging winds. In some cases the insurance company wants offending branches to be stubbed off a specified number of feet from the edge of the roof creating clear sky over the entire roof, a form of improper pruning that they have no idea will actually create a weaker tree structure which is more likely to fail during future storms.
How can the arboriculture industry step in to help the homeowner in this situation? The Florida Chapter created an Insurance Committee to find ways to help; they have developed a sample letter that arborists can provide to the homeowner they can then submit to the insurance company regarding their ill-informed demands. This may, at times, change the demand of the insurance company and prevent unnecessary removal or improper pruning.