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run-in with insurance company!

Posted by peregrinekt z6 Connecticut (My Page) on
Fri, Sep 10, 04 at 8:59

So, I finally bought my house, which I had been renting. while renting I planted a meadow in the front yard, with a native grass/flower mix and I plugged and seeded with other native species. It's now a few years old and looking pretty good, actual flowers are big enough to look like something...asters, black-eyed susans, goldenrods, milkweeds, butterflyweeds... It's a small area, maybe 80' x 20' divided in 2 by the path to my front door, and backed by my vegetable and perennial gardens. I short mow about 2 lawnmower widths around the edge so it looks like it's there on purpose and I have some paths to get around.

about a month after the closing I got a letter from the insurance company:
"An inspection was recently done at your home by **** insurance company. Photos were taken and they show your yard as being overgrown. They are requesting that the yard be cut within 30 days to avoid possible cancellation"

Well, I called around and found out there is no new weed ordinance in my town, wrote a big letter about the benefits of reducing lawn and native plants, wrote up a species list of plants, outlined my maintenance schedule, got it all set to go. Called my agent and asked him about the policy about overgrown yards and he said "really? you're kidding right? I'll take care of it" and he called them off. so it looks like it was just scare tactics. But I thought it was kind of funny in a sort of insurance company conspiracy theory kind of way. I wonder what they would have done had my yard been all marigolds and impatiens?
anyone else get anything like this?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: run-in with insurance company!

personally, i have never gotten anything like this... but i have heard the concern of a fire hazard was the reason that insurance companies attempt to control overgrown vegetation ... this fire hazard has been unproven. the following except is taken from a law review article by Bret Rappaport:

"1. Fire

One of the most common arguments asserted in favor of local weed ordinances is fire prevention. As to natural landscapes this argument is predicated on the unproven contention that tall grass and forb stems, commonly planted as part of a prairie or meadow, constitute a fire hazard. This is not, in fact, true. In New Berlin v. Donald C Hagar,166 United States Forest Service expert David Seaberg testified that a grass fire can sustain high heat for only twenty seconds. In order to ignite wood and sustain a fire potentially damaging to a home, a grass fire must burn within four feet of the home for seven and a half minutes. Judge Gramling agreed, finding no rational basis for the claim that natural landscapes create a fire hazard.167

According to John Diekelmann, a noted landscape architect and plant ecologist, most prairie or meadow plantings contain a large portion of green leafy material at ground level during most seasons and do not sustain fire.168 In short, restoring an area as prairie does not create a fire hazard. Moreover, if fire prevention were the purpose, a rational ordinance would prohibit the accumulation of biomass in a given area based on some index of flammability, not merely undefined weeds. "

there is alot of court precedent out there defending native vegetation - if you need any more look at www.for-wild.org


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RE: run-in with insurance company!

In some towns, usually near big cities with vermin eradication problems, long grass of any sort is prohibited because it attracts rats. I don't know why the insurance company would get involved in anything like that though...


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RE: run-in with insurance company!

No, long grass doesn't "attract rats." That's an entirely bogus excuse for town officials to impose their personal sense of aesthetic acceptability upon those who are more enlightened or innovative.

I encountered that same scheme on my property. On my five rural acres, during construction of the house, I was served notice by the county health board that my "weeds were providing harborage for vermin" and I had five days to "cut and remove" the offending vegetation.

I took the citation to the chief sanitarian and inquired what this was all about. He told me that the weeds on my property would "attract rats" and it was illegal to allow rats to persist in such untidy environments next to houses. I told him that I was a graduate field biologist, and that there is not a shred of scientific evidence that rats can persist in "weeds."

I therefore invited him to set as many rat traps as he would like in my prairie "weeds," as evidence to be used in the court case I said I would pursue if he persisted in pushing the matter. He know full well that rats dont inhabit weedy fields, prairie or otherwise, and I asked him how many of these citations does the health department issue each year. He said over two dozen, and he gets 100% compliance.

I asked him what the rate of compliance might be if an appeals court were to rule that the law is unreasonable, crushes my free speech rights, and therefore could no longer be enforced (as was determined in a previous case in another Ohio jurisdiction).

At that point, the health officer knew that I had both scientific evidence and a court case on my side. He then volunteered to "overlook" my "violation," to preserve the health departments ability to coerce citizens to conform to landscape conventionality whatever that might have to do with public health.

Case closed. I continue to have Ohios tallest front yard, with 7-ft tall prairie grasses. Not a rat in 25 years.


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RE: run-in with insurance company!

well, nothing came of my insurance thing in the end, and the meadow is still out there.

I don't have any rats but I do have a woodchuck. who I will be trapping maybe in the spring if he/she insists on making more woodchucks, as the burrow is right up against my foundation. And so far this fall I have had about 6 species of sparrow out eating the seeds on the grasses, and that was not even particularly looking. hurrah on your success with the town guy!


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RE: run-in with insurance company!

there is alot of court precedent already set that basically has proven that laws that prohibit plants based on simply on size are unenforceable - it has to do with private property rights and freedom of speech - the only enforcement action a government can impose is to protect the public heath and safety of its citizens - a natural landscape with tall grasses has been proven in the courts to pose no danger to the health safety and welfare of the public....thus most "weed laws" are unenforceable.

Here is a link that might be useful: grow it dont mow it


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RE: run-in with insurance company!

  • Posted by EricWI Dane County WI (My Page) on
    Thu, Oct 21, 04 at 10:00

I keep reading about the decline of songbirds due to loss of habitat. Meadowlarks are becoming scarce, because there are no meadows! I hope the natural landscape concept catches on, and becomes more popular.


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RE: run-in with insurance company!

Eric - are you familiar with this quote from Lorrie Otto:

"If suburbia were landscaped with meadows, prairies, thickets, or forests, or combinations of these, then the water would sparkle, fish would be good to eat again, birds would sing and human spirits would soar"

i think that one sentence really sums it up in a nutshell.


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RE: run-in with insurance company!

Is there any research on the fire biomass of particular grasses? I read that Miscanthus sinensis is being considered by the Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council as a wildland fire hazard due to its large amount of dried biomass. Further that 'Burning plantss can have flame lengths of thirty feet and have high potential for spotting into receptive fuels". WWW.invasive.org/easter/eppc/Misi.html

I am encouraging residents in our community to plant native grasses and hoped that they would be less of a fire hazard.

Has anyone seen anything related to this question?
Cynthia Hendry


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RE: run-in with insurance company!

i copied the following excerpt from a summary (i think by Brett Rappaport) describing the case New Berlin v. Donald C Hagar No. 33582 Wis Cir.Ct. April 21, 1976

"United States Forest Service expert David Seaberg testified that a grass fire can sustain high heat for only twenty seconds. In order to ignite wood and sustain a fire potentially damaging to a home, a grass fire must burn within four feet of the home for seven and a half minutes. Judge Gramling agreed, finding no rational basis for the claim that natural landscapes create a fire hazard."

Also taken from this summary:
"According to John Diekelmann, a noted landscape architect and plant ecologist, most prairie or meadow plantings contain a large portion of green leafy material at ground level during most seasons and do not sustain fire.168 In short, restoring an area as prairie does not create a fire hazard. Moreover, if fire prevention were the purpose, a rational ordinance would prohibit the accumulation of biomass in a given area based on some index of flammability, not merely undefined weeds. "

you may want to do some more searching for data from the US Forest Service if you want something more detailed.


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RE: run-in with insurance company!

I was told to take down a shed on my property. I admit that it probably was a danger, but I'm out in the country on many acres and if anyone who didn't belong here went into the shed and fell through the floor, well too bad for him, he shouldn't have been there in the first place. (I do know that would not hold up in court.)

Anyway, the phoebes were nesting in the shed and I told the insurance company it was illegal to disturb the nest. They didn't fuss over my allowing the shed to stand until the phoebes had raised two broods.

After the shed came down, I had two phoebe nesting platforms built. One was ignored entirely; a phoebe tried to build a nest on the second one this past summer but was building on the sloped roof rather than the flat platform. So I had no phoebes this past summer. Maybe next year.

At one house where I lived, we got a notice that our insurance was being cancelled because a visual inspection had determined that we were more than 1000' from a fire hydrant. Totally inaccurate - there was a fire hydrant less than 100' from the house.

I was not even close to being nice when I wrote to that particular company about the "cancellation" - never heard from them, but the insurance was not cancelled.


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RE: run-in with insurance company!

A lot of our posters seem to be confusing a letter from an insurance company with a directive from some branch of the local government. This is an understandable mistake. Insurance companies do have entirely too much say in how people live their lives.

I say, next time don't "X" out the name of the company. Why should you hide their arrogant behavior? I also think it would be fun to write back to them and say that company "Y" has offered you an eco-lawn discount of $2.37 per sixth month period, and you want to know if company "X" would consider matching the offer to keep your business? It seems only fair to offer them their own medicine...


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