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Even the strongest roofs are susceptible to damage. Heavy rain, hail, windstorms and falling objects can leave roofs in complete disarray. When a roof gets damaged, it can lead to other issues, like flooding, water damage and mold.
Fixing or replacing a roof out-of-pocket can be expensive. Most home insurance policies will financially protect the roof and reimburse the homeowner for the cost of repairs, assuming the damage is caused by a covered peril, and up to policy limits.
The importance of roof insurance
Insurance companies place high importance on the roof of a home. Roofs are one of the most important features of a house, providing the first line of defense against damage to the interior, and the condition of the roof often determines the property’s structural integrity.
Roofs are built to withstand hail, wind, freezing rain and similar weather events, but as a roof gets older, it weakens and becomes more susceptible to major damage. Fixing a damaged roof is often a big expense, even if an insurance company is contributing to the cost.
To avoid a major claim, insurance companies want to ensure that the home’s roof is structurally sound and in good condition. Some companies will deny coverage if a roof is deemed too high-risk or has deteriorated significantly, particularly if the home is in an area where wildfires or extreme weather are common.
How to make sure your roof is covered by your insurance policy
Most standard home insurance policies include roof insurance, and homeowners should check their policy documents or ask an agent to see what perils are covered. Most roof damage that is sudden or accidental, like a tree falling or hail, will be covered under dwelling insurance.
There are two types of dwelling coverage in home insurance policies: named perils and open perils. Under a named perils policy, the roof is covered against specific losses listed in the policy. With an open perils policy, the roof is covered against any loss not explicitly excluded from the policy.
It’s important to keep in mind that there may be limitations on what insurance will cover. Homeowners insurance does not cover wear and tear or gradual damage. If a home’s roof is older or has pre-existing damage, the home insurance policy may not cover new roof damage.
Homeowners who want additional roof coverage have the option to increase their dwelling coverage limit. Some insurance companies also sell a roof replacement endorsement that extends coverage. In either case, increasing insurance coverage will raise your premium.
In addition, it is important to consider whether your policy has actual cash value (ACV) or replacement cost value (RCV) coverage for your roof. ACV takes into account depreciation, which means you would likely assume more financial responsibility in the event it needs to be replaced after experiencing extensive damage from high winds or hail, for example. Replacement cost value ensures the policy will account for the full replacement cost of your roof, up to policy limits.
What roof insurance covers
Does homeowners insurance cover roof leaks?
Generally speaking, homeowners insurance does cover roof leaks from deterioration. However, it depends on the source or cause of the leak, as well the age or condition of the roof. If the roof leak is caused by a covered peril, like a hurricane or tornado, the damage is more likely to be covered by insurance.
Roof leaks are usually not covered by insurance if the roof is older or outdated. For instance, a 5-year-old roof may qualify for full coverage, but a 25-year-old roof might not. Some insurance companies will cover older roofs but may offer a much lower payout after a covered claim.
The source of the leak is another thing insurance companies look at when reviewing a claim. If the roof had pre-existing issues due to homeowner neglect or lack of maintenance, an insurance company might deny a claim because the leak was preventable.
Does roof insurance cover rodent damage?
Most homeowners insurance policies have a broad exclusion for “infestations of vermin, including insects and rodents.” These exclusions generally apply to the costs necessary to remove or eradicate these pests and additional remediation costs.
Infestation exclusions in your insurance policy are usually comprehensive and typically will also apply to damages to your home, including the roof, which resulted from rodents. Though specific coverage language will vary, generally homeowners policies treat the removal of rodents and other pests and the repair of resulting damage, as ordinary issues of home maintenance.
It is always important, and worthwhile, to discuss questions of coverage like this with a licensed insurance agent. Ask if the policy does cover rodent damage and removal and if not, review the exclusionary language. Follow up and inquire if the insurer offers any add-on riders which can be included to cover these damages.
Finally, you may also want to talk to pest control companies. Often, these businesses will offer some form of warranty following treatment for pests which might assist with any subsequent damage caused by rodents or other infestations.
How to file a claim for roof damage
There are a number of key steps to take in filing a claim with your homeowners insurance company for roof damage. Throughout the process, it is best to be both thorough and prompt.
- Mitigate damage. First and foremost, do what is necessary to prevent additional damage. In the case of roof damage, take necessary steps, including obtaining service, to patch leaks or temporarily repair other damage to stop additional interior or exterior damage. Remember that you are obligated to take reasonable steps to “mitigate” your loss and may not be able to recover for loss you might have easily prevented.
- Assess and document the damage. Take detailed notes about the timing of events that caused the damage and record all of the steps you took during and after the event to deal with the damage. Take numerous photographs which show the damage both inside and out. This is critical for determining the cause and scope of loss and showing your due diligence in preventing further damage.
- Contact your homeowners insurance company. This should be done as soon as feasible after the damage is incurred. You don’t need to “prove” your case at this point. Put the insurer on notice that you want to file a claim and ask for specific instructions on how to do that. It may even be helpful to create a log of all conversations with your insurance company, such as saving email correspondence.
- Review your policy carefully. It can help to reference areas in the policy which you feel may apply to the claim and if you don’t understand certain sections, ask your carrier. If the answer doesn’t satisfy you or you have any concerns about being compensated accurately for the scope of work and based on the cause of loss, a Public Adjuster or other legal advocate is an option you can explore.
- Get your own estimate. Your insurance company will send out an adjuster to survey the source and extent of damage. In addition, it is usually beneficial to engage your own contractor and have them make an assessment and provide an estimate for required repairs. Based on the scope of work provided by your general contractor, you can discuss what the insurance company will approve for payout and get a better idea of how much, if any, financial responsibility you will need to cover — in addition to the deductible amount.
- Complete all paperwork with your insurer. Be prompt in providing your carrier with all requested documentation. This will ensure your claim is processed efficiently.
Ideally, this process will lead to a beneficial resolution and your roof will be restored to at least its condition prior to the loss. However, this is not always the case and it is important to know that you have the ability to advocate for yourself as a policyholder. Every company has a claims escalation process that can be explored if you feel a payout amount or scope is inadequate given the extent of damage and what perils your policy covers.
Tips for protecting your roof
Protecting your roof is a great way to help prevent a costly claim from ever needing to be filed, even if your insurance policy covers roof damage. Here are some roof protection tips:
- Hire a roof inspector: It’s a good idea to hire an inspector once a year or so to assess the roof’s condition and recommend repairs, especially if it is an older roof. They can also help determine if and when it is appropriate to replace the entire roof.
- Take pictures of the roof: Take pictures of the home’s roof from the outside, or have an inspector take pictures while on the roof — especially prior to hail or hurricane seasons. Having recent pictures of the roof’s condition before the damage occurred helps adjusters assess a claim.
- Keep up with regular maintenance: Once per year, have a roofing company survey the roof and make necessary repairs. Even a few broken or loose shingles can cause major damage and jeopardize future claims.
- Avoid DIY solutions: Unqualified homeowners should avoid fixing roof damage themselves. It’s typically a much better idea to hire a licensed professional to make roof repairs to prevent additional damage and to ensure future claims are not denied due to improper installation.
- Prune overhanging trees: Large trees that hang over a roof can fall and cause major damage. Keep trees and branches pruned year-round to protect the roof in storms or high winds.
Frequently asked questions
What are the best insurance companies?
The best home insurance company is different for every homeowner. For example, Geico might be a good option for low rates, Amica might be a better option for great customer service and USAA is a strong choice for military families. To find the best home insurance to meet specific needs, shop around, compare quotes and speak with a licensed insurance professional.
How much does home insurance cost?
The average U.S. homeowner pays $1,312 per year for $250,000 in dwelling coverage, based on Bankrate’s 2021 study of quoted premiums from Quadrant Information Services. Keep in mind that home insurance rates vary from person to person and by location, among other variables.
How often do I need to replace my roof?
The timeframe in which a roof needs to be replaced depends largely on the materials used to construct it. Most roofing professionals recommend replacing asphalt shingle roofs every 15-30 years, wood shingle roofs every 20-25 years, metal roofs every 50-75 years and rubber roofs every 30-50 years. Any damage to a roof during its lifetime can accelerate the timetable for replacement. It’s a good idea to speak with a licensed roof inspector to determine when a roof needs to be replaced.
Bankrate utilizes Quadrant Information Services to analyze 2021 rates for all ZIP codes and carriers in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Quoted rates are based on 40-year-old male and female homeowners with a clean claim history, good credit and the following coverage limits:
- Coverage A, Dwelling: $250,000
- Coverage B, Other Structures: $25,000
- Coverage C, Personal Property: $125,000
- Coverage D, Loss of Use: $50,000
- Coverage E, Liability: $300,000
- Coverage F, Medical Payments: $1,000
The homeowners also have a $1,000 deductible and a separate wind and hail deductible (if required).
These are sample rates and should be used for comparative purposes only. Your quotes will differ.