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Your fence is as much a part of your home as anything else on your property. You depend on it to keep the dog in the yard and the neighbor kids from cutting across the lawn. Looking out your kitchen window to see the fence panels laying across the lawn, knocked down by an old oak tree, can be a shock.

Fences can be expensive to install, and rebuilding that back corner section wasn’t really in the budget this year. This situation is why you pay monthly for homeowner’s insurance – to compensate you for unexpected accidents and incidents, right? Depending on the amount of damage and the cause of the damage, you may not be able to count on them paying for the repairs. It is crucial to understand how insurance companies typically deal with fence damage claims to know the best way to handle yours.

Other Structures

Your homeowner’s policy primarily covers your house or the main building on your property. However, the “other structures” section of the policy covers other miscellaneous structures such as detached garages, sheds, gazebos, or fences. Typically, the coverage for a fence or a shed is the same as for the main home. If your home would be covered in this situation, your fence will likely be too.

Insurance companies cap their coverage of other structures at 10% of your total homeowner’s insurance policy. If your home is insured up to $250,000, your other structures have $25,000 worth of coverage. Under this policy, your insurance company would pay for up to $25,000 in repairs to your fence.

What type of damage is not covered?

A standard homeowner’s policy excludes damage caused by circumstances that could be considered preventable or the result of neglect on your part. This exclusion includes damage due to termites, mold, fungus, and normal wear and tear. As a homeowner, you are responsible for the repair and maintenance of your property. If you neglect to treat for wood-destroying insects or allow water to pool on your property, causing mold growth, the insurance company will not bail you out. You are responsible for your own mistakes.

The destruction caused by natural disasters is usually excluded as well. Not because it is preventable, but because it is covered by a separate policy specific to that type of disaster. If you live in an area that regularly experiences hurricanes, earthquakes, or floods, you should weigh the benefits of adding insurance for those natural disasters to your policy. Flood coverage will allow you to claim money from the insurance company to rebuild your wood fence should the river overrun its banks washing away posts, rails, and pickets.

Most homeowner’s insurance policies cover repairs resulting from circumstances out of your control, including fire, vandalism, fallen trees, lightning, windstorms, or a car that crashes into your fence. However, even these events that are typically covered can come with some caveats. Deciding the underlying cause of the fence damage will determine who is on the hook for the cost to repair it.

What if a tree falls on my fence?

If a tree in your yard gets blown over in a thunderstorm and breaks the fence, you may assume that your insurance will pay to repair the fence. You assume correctly if the tree was healthy and fell due to the extreme conditions during the storm. However, suppose the tree was diseased or decaying and about to fall over anyway. In that case, your insurance company may decide that you could have prevented the incident if you had done your due diligence as a homeowner.

If your tree falls over in a storm, be sure to document the damage as soon after the storm as it is safe to do so. Take pictures that show the conditions under which the accident took place. Keep a record of the damage it caused as well. Your insurance company will make its own assessment later, but the information you gather now can be helpful.

What if my neighbor’s tree falls on my fence?

In this case, the tree that knocked down your fence is not your own. As such, you are not responsible for the upkeep of the tree. Your neighbor is. Although, you can help to prevent costly repairs by letting them know if you become aware of branches that need pruning before they fall on the fence.

The cost of fixing the fence can fall to your neighbor’s insurance company. You do not need to file a claim with their insurance, however. You should still file a claim with your insurance company. They will determine who should be responsible for the costs.

What if a car crashes into my fence?

Insurance can cover fence damage resulting from a car crash in two different ways. Homeowner’s insurance may pay the claim. However, you can also make a claim against the driver’s car insurance. Every state requires drivers to have property damage liability insurance to cover damage to property while driving. Usually, car insurance policies allow for at least $10,000 in property damage coverage. This money may cover your homeowner’s insurance deductible and contribute to the overall cost of repairing your fence.

Should I file an insurance claim or just fix it?

We all have insurance to prevent us from having excessive out-of-pocket repair costs in unforeseen circumstances. However, we also know that if we file a claim, our payments may go up. A good rule of thumb to use is to pay for repairs yourself unless the repairs exceed your deductible. If you will pay the total cost anyway, there is no benefit to you filing a claim and possibly increasing your rates.

If you take the time to maintain your property and urge your neighbors to do the same, you reduce your risk of having to rely on insurance to cover repairs. However, if the time comes that the weather decides to take it down, your homeowner’s policy may be one of your best tools to fix the problem. When in doubt, your insurance agent can help you determine the best way to pay for the damage and get your fence back where you need it as quickly as possible.