Jan 5, 2013… I am reminded of an old post from 2011 I wrote when the tree nearly fell on our house. Almost as soon as I put it up, I remembered the Eleventh Commandment, where The Lord said THOU SHALT NOT DISPARAGE THY INSURANCE AGENT BEFORE THE CLAIM IS SETTLED. So I hid it. We have since ditched the insurance agents (although we’ve kept the same insurance firm, because they are good people), so I can now make this public.
Remember yesterday when I made a throwaway comment to a “tremendous storm” and then moved right on to poetry? Yeah, that was dumb. A hundred-year-old tree had come down in the storm and was positioned to fall right on the house, and the only thing keeping it up was how it had lodged in the branches of two other trees. As the tree fell at a dead-on angle to our front door, neither Brown nor myself noticed this until he came home from work yesterday and saw the tree from a perspective which made the Holy Sh–ness of the situation perfectly clear.
I’ve taken quite a few shots of the tree for our insurance company, but none of these seem to carry with it the urgency of the situation. It’s unnerving. This was easily a seventy-foot tree, maybe eighteen or twenty inches in diameter at the base, and it was just hanging over our house.
It baffled the tree guys. Usually a tree hits a house or it doesn’t, and they deal with it from that point forward, but this was a tree that could still crush our living room into tiny pieces. And since the tree was so large, there was no way they could tip it so it would fall on a different not-house path. They had to cut down a bunch of smaller maples, then rope the problem tree around three nearby trees to secure it in place before they started cutting. And then they started taking it apart from the top to the bottom, removing segments as they went down.
Oh yes, it was expensive.*
My father has been in insurance for… forty-five years? maybe more … so whenever I have to deal with an insurance claim I call him and ask for the trigger words that get a claim approved and processed quickly. In this case, the words are imminent safety hazard (please note how I didn’t say these were magical super-secret trigger words). So I called our insurance agent, who didn’t bother to call me back. I called again… nothing. Third time’s the charm:
ME: “Tree over house, yammer-yammer, imminent safety hazard.”
THEM: “Tree no hit house, no claim.”
ME: “Yes tree hit house! Lucky no hit! Other trees go smish-smash, we squish!”
THEM: “No claim.”
ME: “Claim if hit house?”
ME: “Me let tree hit house, me get big money ka-ching?”
ME: “You pay tree-go-way-first, you save big money.”
ME: “You … grrr. You take phone number, file claim, me deal with insurance company direct.”
I do not like our insurance agent. Our previous agent retired without warning and sold our policies to a different agent who works for a large nationwide (cough) company, and the hoops I have to jump through to get past the agent and communicate with the actual people who hold our insurance policy will eventually give me an ulcer.** There was, and I kid you not, a period of time when our house wasn’t insured: the previous owners had bought their policy for this house from the same insurance firm we used, and the agent canceled our new policy instead of their old policy when the house was sold (… although they still managed to cash our check, and yes, I’m well aware this entire paragraph qualifies for a sitdown in a bubble bath and a nice, soothing drink of White Whine).
The agent told us that removing a tree that has not hit a dwelling qualifies as a maintenance expense. There is no distinction made between preventative maintenance and imminent risk. The agent said the company would pay to process a large claim for damage to the house, but will not pay to prevent that claim from taking place even if risk is direct, manageable, and differs from routine maintenance. And it’s not as though the tree would have hovered over the house for the rest of forever (last night, the tree guy said “It’ll stay up there tonight, and maybe tomorrow, but then you’ll have a busy weekend”), and when it fell it was going to hit the house.
I asked if we could resolve this by giving the agent a note from our tree doctor. The agent said they would be sure to add the note to the claims paperwork, but it wouldn’t change anything (well, at least the tree would get out of gym).
Eventually we worked around the agents and reached the company, which agreed the agents were utterly full of it and split the cost of removal with us. It was still expensive, but only half as much.
*Usually Brown and I look at a project and say, “We can save money by doing this ourselves.” Last night, standing under the tree, I said, “I’ll call the tree guys” and Brown said “Tell them we’ll pay them a bonus if they can get to it tomorrow.”
**Yes, I am shopping around for another agent. It just was of low priority on the List until today.