What do you do when a storm brings down a tree on your property?

Cities only really help if the tree falls onto public land.
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High winds during Sunday's thunderstorm left a trail of downed trees, broken branches and debris across the Twin Cities.

Damage to property is always a risk during severe weather, particularly if you have trees on your land. So what do you do when it happens to you?

GoMN took a look at the storm damage response for both Minneapolis and St. Paul, and included some advice for all Minnesota homeowners about how to act in the event of a downed tree.

If it falls on public land, the city steps in

In the Twin Cities, city organizations take action when either publicly-owned trees (such as "boulevard trees" on sidewalks, or those in public parks) are felled, or if privately-owned trees fall onto public streets.

There are different priorities when it comes to clearing debris, with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board prioritizing its response in the following order:

St. Paul Forestry meanwhile goes into a little more detail about which areas are cleared first, with priority given to trees involved in "life-threatening situations."

So if a boulevard tree falls onto your house or property, then the city should remove it for you seeing as it's publicly owned. After it's removed, you should set about making your house safe (more on that below) and informing your insurance company.

Beware though, depending on the extent of the damage it could take weeks to clear fallen boulevard trees, debris and stumps.

If you're in Minneapolis, you can call (612-313-7710) or email (forestry@minneapolisparks.org) to make the city aware of a fallen tree. In St. Paul, you call 612-313-7710.

If it falls on private property ...

If a tree on your private land is taken down by a storm, that's a different matter

The city's response teams will clear the tree if it falls from your land onto any public highways if it's blocking a street or a sidewalk.

After that, it's the responsibility of the homeowner for removing the tree.

If your tree falls on your land and isn't blocking any public access, then it's up to you to remove it. The City of Minneapolis also says that if it falls across a property line, then that's an issue between the two property owners and their insurance companies.

How do I find someone to remove a tree?

If you don't fancy hiring a chainsaw/wood chipper to do it yourself, you'll probably want to find a tree trimmer or yard service.

The Better Business Bureau in Minnesota suggests researching prospective contractors on its website, or using its online directory to find accredited businesses.

What you should look out for in this situation is door-to-door solicitations. The BBB says homeowners who have trimming companies knocking on their doors, offering discounts for their services, often find their work is "shoddy or only partially completed."

Anyone that provides tree care, trimming services, or who remove trees, limbs, branches, brush or shrubs should be listed on the Minnesota Tree Care Registry – you can check this here.

They also advise you to request an onsite inspection. If a tree has lost a limb or branches, make sure the company checks out the whole tree, not just the part that's damaged. When they're done and give you a quote for the work, make sure you get everything in writing and ensure the business is covered by insurance.

What if it damages your property?

Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman issued a series of tips for anyone who sees their home, car or other property damages by falling trees/debris during a storm.

Here's what he suggests:

– Notify your insurance company as soon as you can to start the claims process.

– Make "temporary, inexpensive repairs" to prevent further damage – i.e. board up broken windows, tarp over a leaky roof. Keep a receipt for materials you buy so you can claim it back.

– Record the damage by taking photos or video, making a detailed list of all property destroyed, damaged or lost. Don't throw out any damaged items until the insurance adjuster has inspected them.

– If you need to stay somewhere else because of damage, keep receipts for your temporary living expenses. Your homeowner policy might provide for temporary lodging and food expenses up to a percentage of the home's value.

– Work with the insurance company adjuster, who will inspect the damage and provide you with a proof-of-loss form to file a claim as soon as possible. You and the insurer will then agree on the amount of the damages.

– Once your claim is processed, you have the right to choose which contractor repairs your home. Get estimates from local contractors you know or those you trust.

– Get detailed, written estimates for repairs. Don't be tricked into signing a contract by a scammer saying it's an estimate. Any contract you sign should specify the work to be done, materials used and the price breakdown for labor and materials. Only pay in full when the work's done.

– Storm damage (including tree and hail damage) to your vehicle may be covered by your auto insurance, provided you've got "Comprehensive" or “Other than Collision” in your auto policy.

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