Trees and Potential Property Damage
By Amy Brown
Trees and shrubs contribute to property value by enhancing appearance, reducing noise, cutting energy costs and blocking unsightly views. Unfortunately, trees meant to be part of a facility’s permanent landscape are often vulnerable to damage during construction and storms. Careful planning and maintenance can help reduce property damage and liability claims that result form damaged and neglected trees.
Planting and Replacement
When planting trees on a new site or replacing older ones, take precautions. Planting the appropriate trees is important, so get the facts. Research how a tree will look five to 10 years down the line. Knowing what height it will reach at maturity will help you decide where to plant.
Trees should not grow within 25 feet of a power line, due to increased fi re hazards and the possibility of extensive damage during windstorms. Large trees should be planted at least 50 feet from your facility, as those not properly anchored can be knocked over or weakened by storms and tornadoes. They could subsequently fall onto buildings, causing structural damage and injury to tenants. Heavy limbs can break off and damage roofing and vehicles parked on site.
Check with city or state officials before planting trees on or near a public right of way, such as a street, sidewalk or parking lot. They should not obstruct the visibility of traffic signals for motorists or pedestrians. They will also require routine maintenance and trimming so they don’t have protruding and low limbs that can cause injury to passers-by. You also don’t want to be responsible for people having to walk around a tree and into a busy street.
Every year, insurance companies see thousands of dollars in damage caused by fallen or uprooted trees. Proper maintenance—and removal when necessary—can significantly lower the risks of property damage.
Older trees should be routinely inspected for damage and disease, especially during construction, heavy storms and floods. Construction of a new facility, expansion of an existing one, or utility installation can weaken trees and damage limbs. Excess water from storms and flooding can cause tree roots to suffocate and rot. Consistently wet soil may cause erosion, which could make even large trees unstable.
A tree that is sickly and shows signs of rot or decay may need to be removed if it poses a threat to the facility. Trees whose trunks have large cavities with extensive decay should be eliminated, as the trunk will be weak. Lopsided trees or those with excessive lean should also get attention. Having a tree pruned can relieve the weight on the heavier side and balance the tree top. Following are tips on how to care for and maintain trees on or near your facility:
- Check all trees for healthy roots. If you are unsure how to do this, contact an arborist or landscape company.
- Follow recommended fertilization practices.
- Stake newly planted trees.
- Thin out thick canopies of trees to reduce limb breakage from heavy winds.
- Remove old trees or those weakened by construction, insects or disease.
- Contact the local utility company to remove limbs that hang over power lines or roofs, or any others that risk damage to structures.
- Inspect drain lines and channels and remove any obstructions to avoid soil saturation.
- Remove dead leaves, branches and broken tree limbs from your site. Allowing buildup of such refuse increases the potential for fire and bodily injury.
If a Storm Hits
If a storm does damage your trees, analyze your site and perform any necessary repairs to trees and structures. But take safety precautions when cleaning up, such as being on alert for downed power lines and hanging branches. Always keep storage tenants away from damaged areas until they are deemed safe. Other guidelines include:
- Document property damage with photography.
- Submit a written report to the insurance company.
- Prune storm-damaged trees. It may be best to hire a contractor to ensure trees aren’t over-trimmed.
- Remove all overturned trees and those with damaged trunks.
- Replace damaged fence panels or boards.
- If you are unable to conduct tree maintenance for any reason, consider using the services of a professional arborist.
This article was written as a guideline to aid in minimizing risk in self-storage facilities. The information contained in this document is intended to be of general interest and does not address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Nothing in this document constitutes legal advice, nor does any information constitute a comprehensive or complete statement of the issues discussed or the laws relating thereto.
Universal Insurance Facilities Ltd. offers a comprehensive package of coverages specifically designed to meet the needs of the selfstorage industry. For more information, or to get a quick, no-obligation quote, call 800.844.2101; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.vpico.com/universal.