More on Home Insurance
More on Home Insurance
The dwelling coverage section of homeowners insurance protects the structure of your home—including its roof—from perils covered in the policy. If your roof is heavily damaged by fire, heavy winds, hail, or a buildup of snow or ice, you’ll likely be reimbursed for the damage if you file a claim. Even small leaks can be covered as long as it’s proven that the leak was caused by an insured risk.
However, if it’s determined that your roof was damaged because of a lack of maintenance or general wear and tear, your insurance company will likely deny your claim. Coverage is also limited for roofs older than 20 years old; older roofs are typically insured at their actual cash value, meaning you’re only reimbursed for the roof’s value after 20+ years of depreciation.
Keep in mind that a separate wind and hail deductible may be required to cover damage caused by those perils. Double-check if wind or hail damage is either excluded or covered by a separate deductible option. And make sure to set your deductibles at an amount you can afford in a worst-case scenario.
Roof damage is covered by the dwelling coverage portion of your homeowners insurance policy
Damage to the roof of your garage or work shed is covered by the other structures portion of your homeowners insurance policy
Certain types of roof damage, like general wear and tear or pest-induced cosmetic damage are not covered by homeowners insurance
Wind and hail are two of the most common culprits of roof damage, and most of the time these hazards are covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy. However, in states that experience frequent wind and hail damage—like Kansas and Oklahoma—homeowners insurance is likely to cost more because of the heightened risk and propensity for insurance claims.
There are also exceptions and limitations to roof coverage, depending on the severity of the damage. For example, if a few shingles on your roof had slight nicks in them after a hail storm, your home insurance company may classify it as “cosmetic” damage—a common dwelling coverage exclusion. As a matter of practicality, it may not be worth filing a claim for aesthetic roof damage anyway, as the deductible may end up higher than the damage amount.
It’s increasingly common for insurance companies in coastal areas and tornado-prone states to charge a separate wind and hail deductible before they’ll cover those hazards. That means if your roof is blown off in a bad storm and you have a wind deductible, you’ll need to pay that instead of your regular deductible. If you omitted the wind deductible from your policy to lower your rates or otherwise, it won’t be covered and you’ll have to pay for a new roof entirely out of pocket.
Wind and hail deductibles can be a flat dollar amount (like $500, $1,000, and so on) but they’re typically configured as a percentage of your home’s dwelling coverage limit. That means if your home is insured for $300,000 and your wind and hail deductible is 1%, you’d have to pay $3,000 out of pocket before your insurer will cover the remainder of the roof and/or structural damage. Most insurance companies will give you the choice to set your wind and hail deductible at anywhere from 1% to 10% of your home’s insured value.
A good way to keep your insurance costs down is to storm-proof your roof by installing impact-resistant shingles that are resistant to both cosmetic and functional damage.
Not only will this limit the amount of claims you file, saving you time and money, but many insurance companies offer discounts for homeowners who have impact-resistant roofing.
You should also check if your insurance company offers any endorsements or additional roof coverages. Nationwide’s Better Roof Replacement endorsement, for example, will pay to replace your roof with stronger and safer materials if it’s damaged by a covered peril.
Homeowners insurance will cover your leaky roof if the following conditions apply:
The leak was caused by a peril that’s covered in your policy
The damage was swift, sudden, and didn’t accumulate over a number of years.
However, determining the cause of the leak is often contentious and it may be difficult to prove that the fracturing of the roof was sudden and not the result of years of wear and tear. A leak that comes as a complete surprise to the homeowner may be perceived as neglect by the claims inspector.
For example, if you live in a wintry climate and your roof gets layered with snow every winter, you may not notice it's gradually sinking in until that big storm hits and a large section falls through. Even though the event that triggered the leak was a big storm, your insurer’s roof forensics may conclude that the damage was gradual and deny your claim.
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After you’ve finalized your homeowners insurance and your policy is active, the insurance company may send out an adjuster to inspect the home, verify your application, and determine if any exclusions or coverage adjustments need to be retroactively incorporated into your policy. During the inspection, the insurance company is essentially determining if your property is worth insuring based on how likely you are to file a claim. Companies have been known to deny applications post-inspection.
Insurance adjusters make a special note of your roof’s age and quality. If you indicate that your roof is over 20-years-old in your application or at renewal, most insurance companies will require it to pass an inspection. Other insurers simply won’t write new policies for homes with 15- to 20-year-old roofing, and if they do, they’ll specify that it’s only covered at its actual cash value.
Replacing a roof is expensive, but you may not have much of a choice if your roof is ancient—doing nothing could make your home uninsurable.
In addition to excluding roof damage caused by wear and tear, flooding, earthquakes and mudslides are also excluded from coverage without a coverage endorsement or separate insurance policy. There are also a few nuances to roof coverage that are worth keeping in mind.
Roof damage caused by hurricane winds and wind-driven water and hail is typically covered but, like wind and hail damage in Tornado Alley, it’s common for insurers in coastal states to require a separate named storm or hurricane deductible if a hurricane or tropical storm is officially named and declared by the National Hurricane Center.
However, damage to your roof from hurricane flood waters won’t be covered unless you have a flood endorsement or separate flood insurance.
In terms of their propensity for damage and outright peskiness, squirrels are your roof’s version of kitchen cockroaches. They may be small, but they can cause a lot of expensive damage.
Will homeowners insurance cover the large holes that a family of squirrels gnawed on your roof, causing countless leaks and water damage? Typically not, since squirrel-inflicted loss, like other types of pest damage is gradual and preventable with proper home maintenance.
But if a squirrel causes sudden damage—for example by gnawing on your home’s wiring and causing a fire, that would likely be covered.
Ice dam damage, (now say that 10 times fast), like icicles and ice accumulation is a common rooftop peril, causing your roof to fall in and forming barriers around your gutter that can cause water overflow and subsequent leaking or a roof collapse.
Your dwelling coverage will typically cover roof damage caused by ice dams and water, but your personal property inside the home typically won’t be covered.
If your roof is damaged or you suspect your roof incurred damage after a storm, you should do the following:
Hire a contractor to make temporary repairs immediately. Not only does having a leak or hole in your roof provide unwanted access points in your house, but you’re also risking further damage to everything inside
Contact your insurance company (typically within a month of the damage) and find out if the roof damage is covered by your policy
Gather evidence of your claim—ideally before and after photos
File an insurance claim either in-person or over the phone through your agent, or through your company’s website claims portal
Schedule an appointment with your insurance claim inspector so they can survey the damage
Pat Howard is a homeowners insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City. He has written extensively about home insurance cost, coverage, and companies since 2018, and his insights have been featured on Investopedia, Lifehacker, MSN, Zola, HerMoney, and Property Casualty 360.
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