Does homeowners insurance cover roof leaks?
Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com
If you notice water damage on the ceiling or walls in your home, it’s possible that you’re dealing with a leaky roof. Fixing a roof leak isn’t always cheap, but the repair is probably covered by your homeowners insurance policy. In this article, we’ll explain what type of roof leaks are covered by insurance, what kinds of leaks are not covered, and what you should do if you suspect your roof is leaking.
When are roof leaks covered by home insurance?
Roof leaks are covered by home insurance if the leak is caused by a covered — or named — peril. A peril is a situation or weather-related event that can damage your home and personal belongings, such as a fire or hailstorm. Insurance companies agree to compensate you for any losses if your home is damaged by a covered peril.
For example, say a major windstorm blew a big section of shingles off your roof, and a subsequent rainstorm brought water into your attic through the leaky roof. The roof damage would be covered in this situation because the leak was caused by a windstorm, which is covered peril under most insurance policies.
Any roof damage that is sudden and accidental is typically covered by homeowners insurance, but it depends on the type of policy you have. Here are the kinds of home insurance that can include coverage for roof leaks:
When are roof leaks not covered by home insurance?
Roof leaks are not covered by home insurance when the cause of the leak is not a covered peril. This includes general wear and tear. It’s common for roofs to develop leaks as they age, but this type of damage is excluded from coverage. Most home insurance companies will also deny a leaky roof claim if it’s caused by mold, pests, birds, wet rot, improper code materials, contractor/construction errors or neglect.
Keep in mind that some home insurance policies specifically exclude coverage for roof leaks. If you have an HO-8 insurance policy, it’s possible that roof damage is not covered. HO-8 insurance is used to cover old and high-risk homes, and because of that, these policies often exclude coverage for things like winter weather damage or falling objects damage that could cause a roof leak.
Steps to take if you have a roof leak
If you suspect that your home has a leaky roof, it’s important to act quickly. Here are the steps you should take if you have a roof leak:
- Identify the source: If you notice water damage on your walls, ceiling or around light fixtures, try to find the source of the leak. Safety is important here. Start by checking your attic or a crawl space under the roof, or look from the outside of your home. However, don’t be tempted to climb onto the roof to investigate. Ask a roofer or general contractor to perform this check for you, if the leak is serious.
- Document the water damage: Take extensive pictures of the water damage throughout your home. If you were able to identify the source of the leak, take a picture of the roof damage as well. You’ll want to share this documentation with the insurance company when you file a claim.
- Make temporary repairs: If you can, make temporary repairs to stop the leak from getting worse. Use buckets to catch steady drips of water, and use a wet vac or mop to soak up any flood water. Move items out of the immediate affected area to prevent further damage to furniture or personal belongings. Dry the area as much as possible to prevent mold.
- Contact your insurance company: Contact your insurance provider and notify them of the roof leak. An agent will guide you through the process of submitting a roof claim, which will be explained in more detail in the next section.
How to file an insurance claim for a roof damaged by a leak
If you have a major roof leak that is caused by a covered peril, filing an insurance claim is likely your best option, unless the leak is minor. A roof leak can lead to big issues down the line if it’s not addressed and fixed by a professional. Here’s how to file an insurance claim for a roof leak:
Take photos of the damage
Take photos of the roof damage if you can see it from the outside of your home or your attic space to indicate the area affected by the leak, as well as the size of the room(s) affected for estimating purposes. Include photos of any water damage or flooding that was caused by the roof leak.
Get an estimate for the repairs
Have a few contractors or roof repair companies assess the damage and provide a cost estimate for repairs. If the damage is minimal, and the cost of repairs would be less than your insurance deductible, it’s probably not worth filing a claim. If the cost of repairs was $1,000 and your deductible was also $1,000, you would have to pay the full amount out-of-pocket in either case. However, if the cost of repairs is substantially higher than your deductible, you should continue with the claims process and take the reimbursement from your insurance provider.
File a claim with your insurance company
Contact your insurance company and notify them of the roof leak. A claims representative will send you the appropriate paperwork, and ask you to share the photos of the damage. Once the claim is filed, the insurance company will review the damage, calculate your payout based on documentation and repair estimates and write you a check for the cost of repairs, minus your deductible.
How to find a roof leak
Finding a roof leak isn’t always easy, but it’s important to investigate the source as soon as you notice water damage. First, take into consideration what events happened prior to noticing the leak. If heavy winds or hail were a precursor, that can help you narrow down the location of potential roof leaks.
Check the roof from outside your home and see if you can spot any noticeable damage, like wind-blown, missing or damaged shingles, cracks near vent pipes or a misplaced gutter. Another option to find the leak is by looking in your attic. Get a flashlight and look for black marks, mold or water stains.
If all else fails, grab a friend and your garden hose. “If the problem isn’t really obvious, have someone go on the roof with a hose,” says Right Way Roofing, a roofing company out of Arizona. “Start out low by soaking the area above where the leak is in the house. Have your helper stay inside waiting for a drip to appear. Let the hose run for several minutes before you move up the roof. Tell them to yell when the drip is visible. You will then be around where the leak is.” Depending on how accessible your roof is, it may be prudent to have a contractor perform this particular check.
How much does a roof leak cost to fix?
The cost of fixing a roof leak is mostly dependent on the severity of the leak and the type of roof you have. According to Right Way Roofing, the average roof repair costs roughly $650, but prices can range from $150 to $3,000 or more. In addition to new roofing materials, you also have to pay for labor and damage that has affected other areas, like your chimney or gutters.
Because of this, it’s best to get a quote for the cost of repairs before filing an insurance claim. Small leaks that only cost a few hundred dollars to fix are likely not significant enough to warrant filing a claim. But if you’re dealing with a costly repair job that you couldn’t afford to pay out-of-pocket, opening a claim is a good option.
How to protect your roof
Protecting your roof is the best way to prevent a leak from occurring in the first place. Make sure to keep your gutters clean, remove debris from your roof after major storms, and regularly trim trees that overhang your roof. After a storm, do a quick inspection from the inside and outside of your home to check for roof damage, particularly if there is ice or hail. It’s also helpful to photograph your roof prior to storm/hail seasons to verify its condition in the event a leak occurs later. This can be especially helpful in establishing a true cause of loss.
- Most home insurance policies cover roof leaks if it’s caused by a covered, or named, peril.
- Leaks caused by wear and tear, neglect, mold or pests are typically not ever covered by insurance.
- Small leaks might not warrant a claim, but significant damage should be reported to your insurance company as soon as possible.
Having a leaky roof can cause serious trouble. Fortunately, the repairs are probably covered by your homeowners insurance. As a homeowner, it’s important to inspect your roof frequently to check for damage, and keep your roof clear of falling debris. Even small roof leaks can cause significant damage inside and outside your home, so taking preventative measures is key to avoid a costly insurance claim.