Is roof damage covered by homeowners insurance?
Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com
Roof damage exposes your home to the elements, which can destroy your belongings and damage your home’s structure. Luckily, standard homeowners policies cover some roof damage. It’s important to understand what kinds of disasters your policy covers, and more importantly, what type of damage it won’t cover. You also should know how to avoid rejected roof claims and how to prevent roof damage from occurring.
When is roof damage covered?
Common standard home insurance policies include dwelling and other structures coverages. Dwelling coverage helps pay to rebuild or repair your home and its attached structures, like a carport, while other structures coverage covers features such as fences, gazebos and unattached garages.
HO-3 homeowners policies are the most common form of home coverage. These policies cover damages caused by 16 types of disasters, called perils in the insurance industry, including:
- Accidental discharge of water from air conditioners, appliances, heating systems and sprinkler systems
- Accidental, sudden bulging, burning, cracking or tearing apart of air conditioning and heating systems, hot water heaters or sprinkler systems
- Civil unrest and riots
- Falling objects
- Fire and lightning
- Frozen air conditioning or heating systems, appliances, pipes, plumbing and sprinkler systems
- Hail and windstorms
- Malicious mischief and vandalism
- Power surges
- Volcanic eruption
- Weight of ice, sleet and snow
Some HO-3 policies may also claim to cover all perils. However, dig into the fine print of your policy because it will also list exclusions. Exclusions vary among companies and often by location. Common exclusions include damage caused by earthquakes, floods, landslides, mudslides, nuclear accidents, sinkholes and wars.
When is roof damage not covered?
Homeowners insurance doesn’t relieve you of the responsibility of maintaining your home. If procrastinating minor repairs leads to roof damage, the insurer may deny your claim.
Many home insurance companies won’t issue a new or renew an existing policy if your roof is more than 20 years old. Some types of roofs last longer than others. For instance, a metal roof can hold up for 30 to 40 years, while asphalt shingles may need to be replaced after 12 years. In some cases, insurance companies will only pay actual cash value to repair or replace an older damaged roof, leaving you to foot the bill for the bulk of expenses. To avoid costly repair or replacement costs, periodically have a licensed roofing inspector check your roof.
If an insurance adjuster decides that neglect caused your roof damage, the insurer may deny your claim. For example, if you fail to replace a few shingles that blew off during a storm, further water exposure could rot your roof’s structure. Your insurance provider likely won’t cover that damage. Likewise, the carrier may also decline a claim if neglecting to make timely repairs causes damage to other parts of your home’s structure or your belongings.
Avoiding roof damage goes beyond proper structural maintenance. If you have trees in your yard, remove limbs that extend over your roof and dead trees that could fall in a windstorm.
Some insurers won’t cover certain types of roofing materials. For instance, slate tiles and wood shake roofs cost more to repair than traditional asphalt shingles, so some insurers won’t cover them. Also, home insurance companies typically won’t cover cosmetic repairs. If your roof is partially repaired with shingles that don’t match undamaged shingles, the provider will not pay to replace the roof for a better appearance.
If you live in an area prone to natural disasters, you may face higher deductibles for certain perils. For instance, if you own a home on the East or Gulf Coast, your homeowners policy may be subject to a hurricane deductible, which limits claims for hurricane-related damages caused by hail and wind. Insurers often set hurricane deductibles as a percentage of a home’s insured value, often 1 to 5 percent. If your coastal home is insured for $500,000, your insurer may set a $5,000 to $25,000 deductible for hurricane damage.
A hurricane deductible would only apply when the National Hurricane Center declares a hurricane. Your regular dwelling and other structures deductible would apply for damages caused by everyday calamities like spring thunderstorms.
Homes subject to winter storms also may face limited coverage, particularly for damages caused by ice dams. An ice dam occurs when ice forms on the edge of your roof and prevents melting roof ice from draining off. For example, icicles may form on the edge of your roof and, over time, cause further ice buildup on the roof’s surface. If you have an HO-3 policy, it likely will cover roof damage caused by ice buildup but may exclude personal property damages caused in the same disaster.
Many insurers don’t cover damages caused by rodents or insects. If a squirrel chews a hole in your roof or termites weaken your roof’s beams, your homeowners policy may not cover the repairs. Your policy’s exclusions clause will provide detailed information about insect and rodent damage claims. Rodent damage is common, particularly if you live in an area populated by opossums, raccoons and squirrels, which like to build nests in warm attics.
How to file a roof replacement claim
Generally, filing a roof replacement claim is like filing other types of homeowners insurance claims:
- Prevent further damage: If the roof damage exposes other parts of your home’s structure, immediately protect the exposed area. For example, if shingles blow off in a storm, cover the exposed area with a plastic tarp to prevent water saturation. For more severe damage, you may need to hire a contractor to make emergency repairs before filing a claim.
- Photograph all damage: Take several pictures from different angles, including wide shots and details.
- Contact authorities when necessary: If vandals or a burglar caused the damage, file a police report.
- Inform your insurance company: Claims filing procedures very among insurance companies. Some allow you to file a roof claim online or using a mobile app, and others require you to contact a claims center or dedicated agent.
- File claims paperwork: Don’t forget to include your photos. If you hired a contractor for emergency repairs or purchased materials to cover the damage, include the receipts with your roof claim.
- Find an approved contractor: Ask the insurance representative or agent if the company requires you to choose a contractor from an approved list.
- Ask for recommendations: If the insurer doesn’t require you to hire a contractor from an approved list, ask friends and relatives for recommendations. Make sure the contractor you choose holds a valid license, if required by law in your area, has liability insurance and covers its employees with workers compensation insurance.
- Get needed accommodations: If your home is uninhabitable because of the damage, ask the insurance representative about including temporary living expenses in your claim. Many standard home insurance policies include loss of use coverage, which can help pay expenses that exceed your regular costs, like hotel bills and dinner tabs at restaurants.
- Schedule an appointment with a claims adjuster: The company claims adjuster will examine the damage and work with the contractor to determine the cost of repairs and the amount the insurer will pay on the claim. If you’re not satisfied with the claim amount, you can hire a public claims adjuster to support an appeal.
Doing these things will give you the most chance of having your claim approved and the damage resolved quickly.
How to avoid roof damage
Roof damage isn’t always preventable, but there are things you can do to lower your risk:
- Trim overhanging limbs and remove dead trees.
- Remove debris from gutters.
- During the winter months, maintain at least a 65-degree temperature inside your home.
- Before cranking up your fireplace or woodburning stove for the winter, have it professionally cleaned to avoid fire risks.
- Promptly remove icicles that could cause ice dams.
- Hire an exterminator to deal with termites or a wildlife removal service to capture and remove invading squirrels, opossums or racoons.
Taking these steps can help prevent major damage.
When shopping for a homeowners policy, read the fine print carefully to understand what perils it covers and what it doesn’t cover:
- Review the list of covered perils, such as fire, theft, vandalism and windstorms.
- Read the exclusions clause. Common exclusions include damages caused by earthquakes, floods, insects and rodents. Also, look for roofing material exclusions, like slate tiles or metal roofing panels.
- Speak with the insurance agent about additional coverages you might need, like earthquake or flood insurance.
- If you live in a coastal location, find out if the policy contains a hurricane deductible.
Homes require a lot of upkeep and purchasing a homeowners policy doesn’t alleviate the need for timely maintenance. Always stay on top of your maintenance and make repairs immediately. Failing to make prompt repairs can lead to more extensive damage, which the insurer may not cover due to neglect.
Home insurance policies don’t cover normal wear and tear. If you have a new roof, get it inspected after five years and again around its 10-year anniversary. If your roof is over 10 years old, hire an inspector every year or two to avoid a costly disaster. When it’s time to reroof your home, don’t procrastinate. Once the reroofing is complete, you can rest at ease knowing your home is protected for a decade or more to come. Many insurers also offer discounts for new roofs.