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Your guide to understanding when your roof is covered and when it isn't covered by homeowners insurance.
Roof damage is typically covered by your policy’s hazard insurance, which also covers the structure of your home if it’s damaged or destroyed by a covered peril. This section of your policy also covers roof damage to your garage and other structures on your property.
However, roof damage can happen in a multitude of ways and not every cause is covered under your policy.
If your roof deteriorated over a number of years because of neglect and the damage can’t be attributed to a particular peril, your insurer may deny your claim. If your roof was damaged by an earthquake, flood or mudslide, you may also be out of luck unless you have additional coverage for those perils. Perils like hail and wind damage are typically covered under a standard insurance policy, but its common for insurers to require separate deductibles for those perils.
Read on to learn more about roof coverage:
Wind and hail are two common causes of roof damage, and most of the time these perils are covered by a standard home insurance policy. However, in states like Kansas and Oklahoma which experience these hazards more frequently than other parts of the country, insurers are more likely to increase the cost of their policies to reflect the high risk and recurring claims.
Exceptions and limitations to your coverage depending on the severity of the damage are common as well. 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, which is 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 total damage cost.
Its common for insurers in areas that experience a high volume of tornadoes and hail storms to require separate deductibles – the amount you pay before an insurer covers the remainder of your loss.
Wind and hail deductibles can be in the form of flat dollar amounts but are primarily offered as a percentage of your policy’s total property coverage. If you have $300,000 in property coverage and your wind and hail deductible is 1%, you’d have to pay $3,000 out of pocket before your insurer would cover the remainder of the roof or property damage.
The simple version is that home insurance companies will cover your leaky roof if:
The leak was caused by a peril that’s covered in your policy, and
The damage was swift, sudden and didn’t accumulate over a number of years.
This can be an area of contention in home insurance policies, though, as a leak that came as a complete surprise to the homeowner may be perceived as an instance of neglect to the insurer.
For example, if you live in a wintry climate and your roof gets layered with snow every winter, you may not notice its gradual deterioration until that big storm hits and a large section begins leaking. Even though the event that triggered the leak was a big storm, your insurer may view the damage as gradual and deny your claim.
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After you sign your homeowners insurance application, the insurance company will send out an insurance adjuster to make sure everything you claimed in the application checks out and determine if coverage adjustments are needed. It’s not just about coverage limits though – the insurance company wants to know if you’re even worth insuring based on how likely you’re going to be filing claims; they’ve been known to deny applications post-inspection.
One of the key structural components of your home that they inspect is your roof’s quality and how old it is. Some insurers refuse to renew existing policies if the age of your roof has eclipsed 20 years without passing an inspection first. Other insurers simply won’t write new policies for homes with roofing that’s 15 to 20 years old, and if they do, they’ll specify that it’s only covered under an actual cash value (ACV) policy. This means that, if your roof gets damaged or destroyed, the company only pays out whatever the value of your roof is after 20+ years of depreciation.
Replacing a roof can get expensive, as most roofing company cost estimates are anywhere between $9 to $15 per square foot, and if you have 2,000 square feet of roofing that needs to be replaced, it can cost you as much as $30,000. While that’s expensive, you may have not much of a choice if your roof is ancient, as doing nothing could mean having no homeowners insurance policy at all.
We’ve already discussed that your homeowners insurance policy won’t cover roof damage caused by wear and tear, and won’t cover floods, earthquakes and mudslides without special endorsements or additional coverage, but there are other nuances to coverage that are worth keeping in mind as well.
Roof damage due to wind and water destruction is typically covered but, like wind and hail damage in Tornado Alley, it’s common in coastal states for insurers to require a separate, higher deductible if it’s determined that the loss was caused by a hurricane.
However, damage to your roof from hurricane flood waters won’t be covered unless you add a special endorsement to your policy.
In terms of their propensity for damage and outright peskiness, squirrels are your roof’s version of kitchen cockroaches. They may be small, but the mark they leave behind can be extensive and expensive.
Will homeowners insurance cover the large holes that a family of squirrels gnawed in your roof, causing countless leaks and water damage? It depends on what kind of coverage you’re talking about. Dwelling coverage typically protects your home against these pesky creatures when they damage its structure, but damage to your home’s interior and personal property isn’t covered.
While squirrels aren’t an exclusion in policies, there are conditions where insurers can deny your claim if they damage your home. One of these conditions is wear and tear; if the damage occurred over a number of months or years, the insurer will be less forgiving and deny you coverage. Another common exclusion is if damage was limited to roof cosmetics. In insurance terms, this is viewed as “superficial damage” and repair is usually taken care of via your own out of pocket expenses.
Ice dam damage
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 causes water backup and leaking.
As is the case with squirrel and other rooftop pest damage, your policy dwelling coverage will typically cover damage caused by ice dams and water, but your personal property inside the home won’t be covered.
A good way to keep your insurance costs down is to storm-proof your roof by installing impact-resistant shingles that are more 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 policies offer discounts for homeowners who have impact-resistant roofing.
If your roof is damaged or you suspect your roof incurred damage after a storm or an attack by an army of squirrels, you should:
Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.