Does home insurance cover roof leaks?

A leaking roof can cause huge upheaval, but home insurance can help ease the emotional and financial impact of any damage.

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.

Home insurance and roof leaks

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.

Which type of home insurance covers roof leaks?

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:

  • furniture

  • personal belongings 

  • 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.

How does buildings insurance cover roof leaks?

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.

Buildings insurance and roof leaks

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

  • subsidence

  • vehicle or aircraft collisions

  • car and lorry collisions

Does buildings insurance cover water leaks?

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.

How does home contents insurance cover roof leaks?

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:

  • Electrical items

  • Furniture

  • Clothing

Contents insurance will offer cover for possessions damaged in a roof leak if it is the result of:

  • Fire damage

  • Natural disasters

  • Vandalism or malicious damage

  • Theft

When home insurance will not cover a roof leak

There are exclusions to both home contents and buildings insurance policies. 

Wear and tear and roof leaks

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.

Roof leaks - extras you can add to your insurance 

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:

Alternative accommodation cover

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.  

Compulsory excess cover

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. 

No claims discount (NCD) 

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. 

Home emergency cover

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.

Do I need specialist roof leak 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

Is my thatched roof covered by my insurance?

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

Can I claim for a leak on my second home?

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.

How much does roof leak insurance cost?

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

Roof leak cover if you are a landlord 

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. 

If you are a landlord

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

If you are a tenant/renting

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.

Am I covered for roof leaks if I live in a flat?

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:

  • Internal plumbing

  • Wiring

  • Plasterwork and floorboards

  • Paintwork and decoration

  • Carpets

  • Furniture and appliances

Preventing roof leaks

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.

27 October 2020