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Roof leaks can cause big damages to your home, if and when they occur. All it takes is one leak to destroy flooring, drywall and furniture while causing ongoing issues with mold and mildew. If that happens, it can result in major financial losses related to the damages, which can make a big dent in your budget.
But what you may not realize is that your homeowners insurance policy will in some cases cover roof leaks, which can cut down on some of the stress you’re dealing with if your roof springs a leak. For example, most homeowners insurance policies cover roof leaks if the leak occurred accidentally and suddenly due to a covered peril, like a storm with high winds or hail. On the other hand, slow leaks or leaks that occur due to deferred maintenance are typically not covered by your homeowners insurance policy.
While most standard home insurance policies offer the same types of claims coverage, there can be exceptions to the rule. That’s why it’s important to fully understand what your homeowners insurance policy covers. If you’re unsure as to whether your homeowners insurance covers roof leaks, here’s what you need to know.
- A named peril covers roof or ceiling leaks when caused accidentally or suddenly.
- Claims made under a standard homeowners insurance policy are covered on an open perils basis, meaning if coverage for roof leaks is not excluded, it is included.
- Damage caused by lack of maintenance, a gradual leak over time, intentional acts or pest damage are typically not covered by homeowners insurance.
- Finding and repairing a ceiling or roof leak as soon as it is discovered can help avoid costly home and property damage, or a potential homeowners claim.
Home insurance for covering roof leaks
If your roof or ceiling leaks due to a covered peril, the associated damage should be covered under your homeowners insurance policy. Most home insurance policies have an open perils claims basis, which means unless coverage is specifically excluded, then it is included.
For example, if a storm comes through and wind blows some of your roof shingles away causing rain to leak into your ceiling, you would likely have coverage under your homeowners insurance. But if there is a slow leak due to deteriorated or incorrectly installed chimney flashing, for example, any ensuing damage may not be covered by your policy.
Under most standard homeowners insurance policies, the following perils are commonly excluded from coverage:
- Ground movement caused by earthquakes, landslides or sinkholes (unless you opt for a specific endorsement to be added to your policy)
- Normal wear and tear
- Infestations of any kind – bedbugs, termites, mice, etc.
- Nuclear accidents
- Pet damage
- Government action
- Settling of the foundation
- Theft if the dwelling is under construction
- Vandalism if the property is vacant
- Certain dog breeds
- Intentional loss or neglect
- Broken or frozen pipe burst in a vacant home
- Foundation or pavement damage caused by the weight of ice or snow
Will homeowners insurance cover the water damage if my roof leaks?
The initial cause of the roof leak will determine if your homeowners insurance will cover the water damage. Typically, if the initial cause of loss is a covered peril, then it will be covered by home insurance. The dwelling coverage will pay to fix the damage to the structure of the home while personal property coverage will pay if your belongings are damaged.
Depending on the extent of the roof damage, your homeowners insurance may pay for a roof repair or replacement. If you have an old roof, there is a chance your home insurance company will only pay actual cash value rather than replacement cost. Mold may be covered, in some circumstances, depending on your home insurance policy, the time passed since the initial cause of loss, how quickly your claim is resolved and repairs are able to be completed, as well as any specific endorsements you may have.
How do I find a roof leak?
It is best to find a roof or ceiling leak as soon as possible to minimize the water damage caused and increase your chances of having it covered under your homeowners insurance policy. Experts recommend several steps to take to find a roof leak:
- Find the source of the leak: If you notice water marks on your ceiling or mold along the walls, there is a good chance of a leak somewhere. If the ceiling is leaking, check the room above for potential causes, soft flooring or other indicators of water damage. If the roof is leaking, search for points of entry, such as missing, damaged or cracked shingles, vent pipe or chimney cracks and missing gutters. You can also check your attic for signs of water damage or mold, especially on a rainy day. Rotted wood and moldy insulation are common signs of water leaks.
- Make repairs right away: Once you find the source of the leak, it is important to make repairs right away to minimize damage. You may be able to DIY some repairs while others will require a professional. If you have to file a claim, then document the process closely before making any changes.
- Check your roof regularly: Make sure your roof is in good working order by checking it regularly. Check if there are any cracked, damaged or missing shingles and replace them promptly. Ensure the chimney and vent pipes are not damaged and the flashing is still tacked in place.
- Watch your top floor ceiling: By inspecting your ceiling on the top floor of your home regularly, you can catch small leaks before they become a big problem. If there is any damage to your highest ceiling, check the attic and roof for damage right away.
Should I file a claim for a leaky roof?
If the cause of your leaky roof is sudden and accidental, there is a good chance it is covered under homeowners insurance. However, if the roof leak has been there for some time or is caused by wear and tear, the insurance company will likely deny the claim. Damage caused by an excluded peril will not be covered, so you may want to read your home insurance policy before deciding whether to file a claim.
Also, consider the age of your roof. If it is old and needs repairs, there is a chance the claim will be denied. If this happens, you may get a remediation letter from your homeowners insurance company requiring your roof be repaired or replaced, or your insurance policy could be canceled or nonrenewed.
Any claim you file with your home insurance company has the potential to raise your rates, even if nothing has been paid out. Each insurance company has its own rules on how home claims impact rates and how often you can file a claim without it affecting your policy. If you are unsure about filing a claim, you may want to call a roofing inspector to assess the damage to help you determine the initial cause so you can decide.
Frequently asked questions
It depends. In some cases, your insurance company may offer a discount if you replace your roof, especially if you use certain materials, like impact-resistant shingles or specific green or environmentally friendly materials. If you want to know whether your specific policy will be cheaper after replacing your roof, it may benefit you to ask your insurance agent about any eligible discounts prior to getting the work done.
If you’re replacing your roof as part of a covered homeowners insurance claim, you will almost certainly have to pay your deductible. The total amount you owe for your deductible is typically determined by what caused the damage and the deductible amount you chose when you purchased your homeowners insurance policy.
Generally speaking, you will pay the roofer or the person doing the work your deductible and the insurance company pays the rest. To be sure, ask your claims adjuster who to pay and the best process to pay your deductible.