Homeowners insurance may be like manna from heaven when things go wrong, but insurance policies can be difficult to understand. Unless you speak legalese fluently, figuring out precisely what your homeowners policy covers can take time. To help save you time, we’ll cover when homeowners insurance covers roof damage and what happens if the roof leaks.
When does homeowners insurance cover roof damage?
The typical homeowners insurance policy includes “dwelling coverage.” Dwelling coverage helps protect the homeowner from loss when the home’s structure is damaged, and that includes the roof. Major disasters — like damage due to a fire or tornado — are covered. So if a bad storm moves through the neighborhood and knocks a tree on the homeowner’s roof, that would be covered. If the storm strips the roof of its shingles, that would be covered too.
There are two important things to remember:
- The homeowner will likely have an insurance deductible to pay before homeowners insurance kicks in.
- The homeowner’s insurance policy may include a coverage limit. In other words, they may have purchased a policy that set a strict limit on how much the insurance company would cover in the event of a loss.
Does homeowners insurance cover roof leaks?
The quick answer is maybe. It ultimately depends on why the roof is leaking. Let’s say the roof of a home is damaged by a hail storm and springs a leak. In that case, the repairs would be covered (unless the policy has a wind or hail exclusion).
Now, say a roof leak occurs because the homeowner failed to conduct routine maintenance or because the roof is old and ready to be replaced. Those leaks are unlikely to be covered.
In a nutshell: If a leak can be traced back to lack of maintenance or age of the roof, the leaking roof is probably not covered. If the leaks are due to wind, hail, or other weather event, they probably will be covered.
Does homeowners insurance cover roof replacement?
Yes, if a homeowner has roof replacement coverage, their insurer will replace the roof (as long as it’s not due to normal wear and tear). The caveat is this: A homeowner must purchase a policy that includes roof replacement coverage and not assume that it’s included in every policy.
It’s natural for homeowners to shop around for the best policy rates. Sometimes, though, a low rate comes at the expense of coverage they need. For example, a cheap homeowners insurance policy may limit how much the insurance company will pay toward a new roof. If a homeowner is interested in a policy that covers the total replacement cost of a roof (minus their deductible) they should make that clear to their insurance agent before purchasing a policy.
It’s important to read a policy before signing on. Here’s why: Events outside a homeowner’s control — like fire or vandalism — are almost always covered, and damage from extreme weather events is usually covered. It’s words like “almost always” and “usually” that should give a homeowner pause. Before purchasing a policy, homeowners need to read what is (and is not) covered. The costs of homeowners insurance vary, depending on the level of coverage desired. While comprehensive coverage may cost more upfront, it can save the homeowner thousands of dollars in the event of a claim.
Does homeowners insurance cover wind and hail damage to my roof?
Most homeowners policies do cover wind and hail damage. That said, in areas of the country where both wind and hail damage are common, more companies are setting limits on how much they’re willing to pay or excluding them from their homeowners policies entirely. For example, USAA Insurance excludes wind or hail coverage in coastal areas of Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas.
Cost of repairing your roof with or without homeowners insurance
The cost of repairing a roof depends on the severity of the damage. According to Home Advisor, the average cost to make repairs is $921, and the average homeowner spends around $8,369 to install a new roof. That, of course, depends on the size of the home. When insurance covers the repairs or replacement, all the homeowner is out is the deductible.
How to file a roof insurance claim
When filing a homeowners insurance claim for roof damage, a homeowner should take the following steps:
Document the damage
Take as many pictures as possible of the damage. And if possible, take photos of what caused the damage (for example, a fallen tree on the roof). Ideally, take these photos from inside the house. Never climb up on a roof that may be damaged or go out in the middle of a storm.
Make temporary repairs if it is safe to do so
If it is possible to do so safely, throw a tarp over the impacted area of the roof to prevent further damage to the home. If it is not safe, definitely skip this step. Save receipts for anything purchased, including tarps.
Contact your insurance company
Call the insurance company as soon as possible to report the loss.
File the paperwork
Submit any paperwork provided by the insurer. The faster the paperwork is returned, the faster the company can get to work on the claim.
Schedule a visit from an insurance adjuster
Plan to be home to meet with the insurance adjuster, explain what happened, and answer any potential questions.
What if my roof insurance claim is denied?
Insurance companies must mail a formal letter explaining their reasons for the denial. If it was denied due to a legitimate reason (like the policy had lapsed, or the loss was specifically excluded from coverage), there’s nothing more that can be done. However, if the homeowner did nothing wrong and it appears the claim should have been paid, they should:
- File a formal appeal with the insurance company, providing as much evidence and documentation as possible.
- Call a property insurance claims professional. A licensed public insurance adjuster can verify coverage, document losses, and place a value on those losses. To find someone who will advocate on behalf of the homeowner, type the words “property insurance claims professional” into a search engine, followed by the homeowner’s zip code.
- File a formal complaint with the state’s insurance commissioner.
And finally, if it still appears that the insurance company should have covered the loss but did not, the homeowner has the option of hiring a qualified attorney and suing the insurer.
Are there roof requirements for home insurance?
Some types of roofs are less expensive to insure than others. These types of roofs tend to earn a discounted premium. And there are some roofs that are so risky to insure that it can be tough (if not impossible) to secure coverage. So, yes, there are roof requirements for homeowners insurance. Here are some roof types that easily meet insurance requirements:
- A newer roof. If a roof is 20 years old or more, some companies will require an inspection before offering homeowners coverage. Other insurers may offer cash value replacement only or refuse to write a policy for the home.
- A metal, slate, or asphalt shingle roof tends to be attractive to insurance companies (as opposed to a wooden roof).
- Insurance companies like homes with a hip roof. “Hip” refers to the shape of the roof. Hip roofs are known for withstanding weather events better than other roof types. Typically, a hip roof is cheaper to insure than a gable or flat roof.
When is roof damage not covered by insurance?
There are several scenarios under which an insurer might refuse to insure a roof or may deny a claim. They include:
When the roof is too old
Typically, the newer the roof, the less expensive it is to insure. On the other hand, an old roof (20 years or more) may not qualify for coverage.
When the damage was the homeowner’s fault
For example, if a homeowner was setting off fireworks in the yard and that caused the roof to catch on fire, the loss would not be covered. If their teenagers were playing around on the roof and someone fell through — will homeowners insurance cover a new roof? Probably not.
When the roofing material is too expensive to insure
For example, untreated wood shingle roofs have a reputation for easily catching fire, and insurers are likely to limit their coverage or refuse to insure the roof.
When the damage is specifically excluded per the policy
Events like earthquakes, landslides, sinkholes, pest infestation, war or government action, and nuclear explosions are almost always excluded from homeowners insurance policies. So if a roof is damaged in a landslide, the homeowner is out of luck.
The takeaway lesson here is that a homeowner is responsible for making sure the homeowners policy they choose includes all the coverage they’re looking for, including roof coverage. The best way to make that happen is to make a list of all the things they’re looking for in a policy and compare that list to the policy they are offered. The wisest way to go about buying homeowners insurance is to purchase the highest level of coverage they can afford.