Age, extreme weather, even general wear and tear can cause a roof to leak. Here’s your guide to what is, and what is not, covered when it comes to roof leaks and home insurance.
The cost of damage caused by a roof leak can range from hundreds to, in some cases, thousands of pounds.
Chances are this cost will be covered by a home insurance policy, but there may be some exclusions. You should always compare home insurance cover before you buy to make sure you get the best policy for you.
There are 2 types of home insurance which could cover the cost of damage caused by a roof leak.
One type, buildings insurance, covers structural damage while the other, home contents insurance can cover the repair or replacement of any possessions or fittings damaged by a roof leak.
Buildings insurance covers the infrastructure of your home such as:
the cost of rebuilding or repairing a home
permanent fixtures and fittings, like kitchens and bathrooms
Contents insurance covers the things you keep in your home:
computing equipment and TVs
some types of flooring including carpets
Contents insurance and buildings insurance are sold separately but some insurance companies do offer joint policies and sometimes discounts. But be aware that the cheapest policies aren’t always the best.
Buildings insurance will normally cover all or part of the cost of rebuilding or repairing your home in the event of damage to your property.
This does include roof leaks, but whether you can claim will depend on what caused the leak.
If your roof is damaged as a result of extreme weather, fire, theft, vandalism or other threats, you may be covered for your roof leak.
Buildings insurance typically covers a roof leak caused by:
fire, explosion, storms, floods, earthquakes
theft, attempted theft and vandalism
frozen and burst pipes
fallen trees, lampposts, aerials or satellite dishes
vehicle or aircraft collisions
car and lorry collisions
A water leak from a burst pipe, rather than a damaged roof is one of the most common home insurance claims.
The Association of British Insurers estimates at least £1.5m is claimed every day on home insurance as a result of water leaks and water damage.
Buildings insurance will also cover water damage as standard, but it may not help with repairing the cause of the leak.
Home contents insurance may cover the cost of any possessions damaged by a water leak
If you’ve just discovered a slow leak that you should have been aware of sooner, your insurance company may not pay out. Not all buildings insurance is the same, so you will need to shop around and compare different policies before you buy.
Home contents insurance is another form of home insurance and can help cover the cost of replacing some of your most valuable possessions.
So, while buildings insurance may cover the cost of repairing the roof itself, your contents cover may help with the cost of replacing or repairing items which may have been damaged as a result of the roof leak.
These may include items such as:
Contents insurance will offer cover for possessions damaged in a roof leak if it is the result of:
Vandalism or malicious damage
There are exclusions to both home contents and buildings insurance policies.
One of the main reasons for insurance companies not paying out is when the roof leak is caused by wear and tear.
You will not be covered for damage to your contents if the insurer believes the leak has been caused because the roof has not been maintained properly.
For example, if a leak was down to poor maintenance - rain has dripped into the timbers of a roof that has not been repaired – then the insurer will consider that to be negligence.
Other exclusions that would mean you cannot claim for your roof leak include:
Acts of terrorism
The property being unoccupied for more than 30 consecutive days in a year
Damage that has arisen because you are running a business from home
Cover for business-related contents
Damage from some pests – such as wasps or birds
Frost – depending on how the frost is caused
As with any form of insurance, it’s vital to check your buildings and contents policies carefully to be sure you have the level of cover you need.
The following inclusions can come as standard in either a buildings or home contents insurance policy but in some cases they may cost extra. You may want to make sure your home insurance includes them:
If you cannot live in your home due to damage caused by a roof leak, then this will cover the cost of somewhere to stay. There will be a ceiling on the amount you can claim, so check how much cover is being offered.
This is the excess set by the insurance provider. You will have to pay this, but you can choose to pay a higher voluntary excess which will reduce your total premium. But you will need to be able to afford to pay it in the event of a claim.
If you don’t make a claim on your buildings insurance, you may find your premium gets cheaper, but this is not always the case.
Some home emergency services such as heating and plumbing repairs can be included but normally come at an extra cost. You may also get access to a 24-hour helpline through your home insurance cover.
You may want to consider the following if you live in a property where there is a risk of flooding or subsidence. It will be included in your buildings insurance but at an extra cost.
Examples of add-on specialist cover would include:
Cover for flooding or subsidence if you live in a high-risk area
Cover for damage to underground pipes,
Cover for glass in windows, doors, conservatories and skylights
Liability cover if someone else's property is also damaged
Legal expenses cover
If you live in a property with a thatched roof then you may already have faced a challenge sourcing reasonably priced buildings cover.
If you live in a listed building or one with a thatched roof then you may want to get a quote from a specialist insurer. Quite often they may be able to offer a cheaper quote than a larger insurer because they work with specialist underwriters and insure a large number of specialist properties.
You should be able to get full cover for properties with thatched roofs, including listed properties
Because thatched homes are, by their nature, a non-standard insurance risk, you will need to consider comparing quotes online from both specialist and non-specialist insurers
Insurers are reluctant to cover properties that are unoccupied for long periods of time, so if you have a roof leak and your property has been unoccupied for 2 months or more, you may not be covered.
If you go away on a long holiday, work away from home for long periods or even have to live elsewhere so that home improvements can be made, you need to let your insurer know
If you do own a holiday home you will also need a specialist insurance policy and you must tell your insurer that it’s not your main home
You can get specialist insurance for homes where no contents or furniture is present.
If you are upfront with your insurer, you should be able to ensure you get roof leak cover.
According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI) the average annual cost of buildings insurance was £263 in 2019 while home contents insurance costs the average family £139 a year.
But what you pay depends on:
Your claims history – if you have made previous claims you may be charged more
Value of your contents – having a large number of higher risk items such as jewellery will increase the premium
Where you live – if you live in a high crime area you are considered riskier to insure
If you are renting or rent out a property you will need to have the right insurance.
It’s also more complex to insure a rented property because the landlord owns the property but the tenants own the items inside.
As the owner, you need to make sure the property is maintained otherwise your buildings insurance may not pay out if you have a roof leak.
It is your responsibility to undertake maintenance work on the roof and do whatever you can to prevent roof leaks
If you are a landlord your mortgage provider will make it a condition of your loan that you have a buildings insurance policy in place
While you don’t need to take out buildings insurance, you will need to take out a contents insurance policy to protect your belongings in the event of a roof leak.
Because flats are owned by both leaseholders and freeholders, getting the right cover is essential.
Leaseholders and freeholders both need to look after the property and a lease will state who needs to be responsible for insuring what.
A freeholder will need to make sure they insure, and maintain:
The building’s structure, including the roof and guttering
Shared parts of the building, such as lifts and stairways
Leaseholders will need to maintain and insure:
Plasterwork and floorboards
Paintwork and decoration
Furniture and appliances
Preventing roof leaks caused by wear and tear is essential and will make sure that you are covered if you do need to make a claim.
Always make sure you clear your guttering, fix any slipped tiles, and keep proof of any work you do or have done by a professional to show that you are properly maintaining your home.