Published October 13, 2020|4 min read
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Whether or not a leaky roof is covered by homeowners insurance depends mostly on what caused the leak. A standard policy will cover repairs to your roof if a named peril causes the roof to crack and leak, like if shingles are ripped off your roof during a windstorm, or if a tree branch crashes into your roof and causes a leak. But leaks that develop over time due to poor maintenance or failure to fix damage you already knew about wouldn’t be covered.
Roof leaks also mean rainwater entering the home, and homeowners insurance will cover the resulting water damage as long as the cause of the roof leak is covered — like if a heavy storm causes a roof leak that then damages your interior walls.
Essentially, your home insurance will cover damage that is sudden and accidental, but not damage that’s gradual. However, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of a roof leak, and if your homeowners insurance company determines that you could have done more to prevent the crack or leak before it developed, your claim may be denied.
Homeowners insurance will cover a roof leak when the leak occurs suddenly and accidentally, like when it’s caused by a covered peril
A standard policy won’t cover a roof leak if the damage occurs gradually, or if the leak is caused by pest damage, poor maintenance, or neglect
Find and repair the source of your roof leak as soon as you discover it in order to avoid expensive water damage down the line
Homeowners insurance covers leaky roofs when the damage is caused by a covered peril. If a thunderstorm causes a tree to fall on your home and rainwater gets in through a crack in your roof, your dwelling coverage would pay to repair your roof and the damage to your home. Your personal belongings would also be covered up to your personal property coverage limits.
Homeowners insurance typically covers both wind and hail damage, so if a hailstorm creates a crack in your roof and rainwater gets in, the damage to your home would be covered. Coverage for wind and hail damage may be excluded, however, if you live in a high-risk coastal community, in which case you would need to add windstorm insurance to your policy for an additional premium. Lightning is also a covered peril, so if lightning strikes your home and you notice your roof leaking soon after, that damage would likely be covered.
Damage to your home and personal property caused by the weight of rain, snow, or ice is covered under a standard home insurance policy. If you notice a leak in your roof soon after a heavy ice storm, the damage may be covered. But it can be difficult to prove exactly what caused a roof leak. If snow and ice were building up on your roof for months and it finally cracks, your home insurance company may determine that the damage was gradual and not the result of one storm alone.
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Homeowners insurance will cover sudden and accidental water damage, but it won’t cover floods, sewage backup, or gradual leaks. If a covered peril creates an opening in your roof that causes rainwater to pour into your attic, you could file a claim to repair your roof and the resulting water damage. But if rain dripped into your home for months before it fried your television or ruined the paint on your walls, you won’t be covered.
Homeowners insurance won’t cover every cause of a roof leak. Some risks are specifically excluded from certain policies depending on where you live, so you should check with your insurer to review your covered perils before filing a claim for roof damage.
When a leaky roof is caused by an animal or a pest infestation, it is classified as a maintenance issue and homeowners insurance will not cover it. For example, squirrels are known to cause expensive roof damage over time which can lead to roof leaks. Because homeowners insurance only covers sudden and accidental events, the gradual animal damage would not be covered.
A roof that’s endured gradual damage would not be covered in the event that a leak enters the home and causes damage. In general, poorly maintained or neglected structures are not covered by any of the six basic protections of a typical homeowners policy. If your roof was corroding before the leak began, your home insurance wouldn’t cover the resulting damage because necessary repairs would have prevented the leak from occurring in the first place.
There are a number of steps you can take to get ahead of roof leaks and avoid the resulting water damage they can cause. Try the following:
Follow evidence of the leak - If you notice water stains on your ceiling or mold in the corners of your home, then chances are there’s a leak somewhere and it’s bound to cause further damage to your home. Trace all physical signs of damage or associated odors to their highest point to pinpoint the source of the leak
Check your roof regularly - Make sure your roof is in good condition meaning the panels are properly installed and no part of your roof is cracked, damaged or broken
Keep an eye on your highest floor - Even if you don’t suspect a leak, you can inspect the ceilings of your highest floor just to be sure. If your roof is leaking, you'll see damage on your top floor first
Make all necessary repairs promptly - Once you can pinpoint the source of your leaky roof, make the repairs yourself or hire a professional to bring it to tip-top shape before it causes even more damage
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