Loss of trees through home insurance claims

Tree protection

Home insurance claims for tree roots causing damage to properties is a serious threat to hundreds of trees in Haringey. Sadly, this tends to threaten some of our oldest, most valuable, beautiful trees. 

There is a process we follow when an insurance claim is made against one of our trees and it’s designed to avoid cutting down the tree, if at all possible.

Step one: an insurance claim is made  

When an insurance claim is made we:

  • first confirm who owns the tree, the maintenance schedule in place for it, when it was last pruned and when the next pruning is due
  • ask for evidence of damage from the relevant property owner(s)
  • ask the property owner to show us that the tree is causing subsidence damage to their home 

Step two: we ask for detailed evidence   

The evidence we'll ask for to support a claim includes:

  • an engineer’s report showing:
    • location
    • nature
    • BRE category – used to help decide if any cracks could affect the property and what repairs are needed
    • crack monitoring
    • drainage survey 
  • a plan and profile of the property foundations
  • a site plan indicating the location of the structure in relation to trees and other vegetation nearby
  • a tree survey (arboricultural report) 
  • the results of soil investigation tests confirming the:
    • profile
    • moisture content
    • plasticity index
    • desiccation
    • tree root identification 

Step three: we ask for further evidence   

Where the evidence provided is not strong enough, we'll:

  • ask for further evidence
  • continue to maintain the tree 
  • monitor the level of the building to show whether there is seasonal movement and confirm whether trees or vegetation are the cause

Step four: interventions we make to avoid cutting the tree down   

Cutting back the head of a tree is called crown reduction and we do this to help stop its roots growing. This can stop damage to surrounding buildings.

If crown reduction has already been done, we'll try it a second time.

If a tree has a maintenance routine, we'll also increase how often we look after it, to avoid it being cut down.

Step five: underpinning a home   

When other options do not work, the building will need to be protected from tree roots, or the tree will need to be cut down.

The main thing that can be done to protect a building is to ‘underpin’ it, putting in stronger foundations. It's important to know that:

  • this tends to be for older houses (pre-20th century) which have much shallower foundations
  • underpinning is major structural work and the cost can vary a lot depending on the building, land and other factors 
  • estimates for underpinning in Haringey from insurers have ranged from £50,000 to £300,000

There are hundreds of trees facing insurance claims in Haringey and so the cost to underpin homes at risk from tree roots would run into millions.

There is no legal obligation for insurance companies to take on any part of the cost of underpinning.

Step six: cutting down a tree 

Sometimes we are sadly forced to cut down trees that have been hit by insurance claims, as the alternative would be for us to spend millions of taxpayers’ money underpinning homes. 

The number of trees cut down because they face insurance claims is around 20 per year. At the same time we plant hundreds of new street trees every year.