CHICAGO (CBS) — A viewer reached out to the Morning Insiders asking for help after part of a neighbor’s tree fell on her house, and neither he nor his insurance company would help pay for the damage.
CBS 2’s Lauren Victory dug in and discovered a little-known fact about homeowner’s insurance.
“Unfortunately for me, this tree’s not on my property, or the moment I moved in, I would have had it removed,” Samantha Lambros said.
The tree has been dead since Lambros moved into her home in south suburban Bradley.
In June, as storms and strong winds rolled through, a large hunk of the tree landed on top of her home, puncturing the roof in three spots.
Damage estimates ranged from a few hundred to thousands of dollars.
She asked her tree-owning neighbor to do the right thing and pay for the damage, but he refused. Her State Farm agent gave her bad news as well.
“Unfortunately, unless I got their information, I couldn’t make a claim against them,” she said.
Even after getting her neighbor’s insurance information, Lambros hit another dead end in the form of a letter.
“Our insured has elected not to have this claim investigated. Therefore we are closing our claim file,” the letter informed her.
Despite warning her neighbor about the dead tree before the storm and even offering to help pay to have it removed, Lambros can’t file a claim against her neighbor’s policy.
The only person who can file a claim involving a piece of property – trees and all – is the property owner.
Janet Patrick, with the Illinois Insurance Hotline, said if a neighbor refuses to file a claim in a case like this, a homeowner can file a lawsuit or seek help from their own insurance company.
“The quickest way to resolve it is to turn it in to the insurance company if there’s damage and let them assess the damage and pursue it that way,” she said.
If Lambros does file a claim against her own insurance policy, there are potential pitfalls. She might have to pay the $1,400 deductible, she might see her premium increase, or the company could cancel her policy if she’s had too many claims.
It’s a real fear for Lambros with that dead tree still looming over her house.
“Before the next year comes around, there will be another claim made once that tree comes on my house. Hopefully it’s just a roof issue at that point. Hopefully it’s not my entire house has been knocked down,” she said.
Because she needs to get the roof fixed before the weather gets colder, Lambros ultimately decided she had no choice but to file a claim against her own homeowner’s policy.
She’s hoping it will go after her uncooperative neighbor’s policy, and she will avoid having to pay the deductible and having her record dinged.
UPDATE: Following the airing of this story, Lambros told CBS 2 that State Farm contacted her to let her know that the neighbor decided to accept full liability for the issue without investigation. A State Farm agent will now come to her home at the end of the month, and a check has been issued and is in the mail to cover the deductible.