Every year, homeowners file millions of dollars worth of insurance claims for their damaged or leaking roofs. However, many people are surprised to learn that their insurance coverage doesn’t necessarily protect their home against all types of roofing damage. In fact, many insurers only fully cover damage caused by fires and natural disasters—which means the majority of roofing damage caused by wind, snow, hail, or rain is only partially covered or not covered at all.
In this article, we’ll break down the most common forms of coverage and what you need to know about your homeowner’s insurance policy and how it applies to your roof.
Should I file a claim for roof damage?
Every home insurance policy is different. You’ll always want to read through your policy’s paperwork before filing a claim. However, generally speaking, most insurers cover the cost of roof damage caused by disasters. This includes fire damage, intentional damage caused by vandals, or extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and tornadoes. There’s a reason why most policies cover these events by default: they’re rare and eligibility requires exceptional circumstances.
Check to see if your policy covers damage from normal weather—such as rain, wind, hail, or snow—or from the secondary effects of weather events, such as high winds toppling a tree onto your roof.
Even if your home insurance has coverage here, it might not necessarily be full coverage: most insurers will only reimburse you for what they assess your roof to be worth, known as “actual cash value.” When there’s an insurance claim for a roof leak, an older roof will likely get a smaller payout than a newly installed one.
Keep in mind that your insurance company has one goal: to limit their liability and, ultimately, the amount they have to pay out if something happens to your roof. When choosing between insurers, be sure to read the fine print and consider the implications for your roof.
If you do have questions about your policy, be sure to ask your insurer and get all information in writing.
Should I call insurance or a roofer first?
Start by calling your insurance company. They’ll need to send out an insurance claims examiner to take a look at the damage and determine just how much you’re owed for your roof. If you have a roofer make repairs first, you may not be able to prove the extent of the damage to your insurer. This could limit your compensation.
Your insurer needs to move fast. If they can’t get an examiner out to your home in 1-2 business days, call and put pressure on them to do so. You don’t want your roof to sit damaged—it could lead to further, compounding issues the next time it rains.
While you’re waiting for the examiner to come out to your home, take pictures of the damage. You may need these later in the process if your insurer pushes back against the severity of the original damage. Again: your insurer’s goal is to limit the total amount they need to compensate you for damage.
You can certainly be looking for and vetting out roofers while you’re waiting, too. Look for licensed, certified, and insured roofers with a strong track record of high-quality roof repairs and replacements. You’ll want someone you trust working on your roof.
How do I get insurance to pay for a new roof?
If the damage to your roof is extensive and structural, your insurer should cover the cost of replacing the roof. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, older roofs are often covered at “actual cash value.” This means homeowners with 20+ year old roofs get caught paying for some of their roof replacement out-of-pocket, since the cost of the new roof exceeds what the insurance company gives them for their old roof.
There are a few ways you can push back against “actual cash value” insurance compensation. The first is scheduling annual roofing checkups or inspections. If a reputable roofing company provides you with a written assessment of your roof’s condition, that could be used to prove there were no pre-existing conditions that detract from the roof’s value.
Along with this written inspection, take dated pictures of your roof. You can send these pictures to your insurer to definitively prove that there was no roof damage prior to the recent incident.
Finally, if you’re thinking ahead, shop around for different policies and look through the fine print. Many home insurance policies have severe limits on what kinds of claims can be made, what kinds of roofs are covered, and how much the insurer will pitch in for replacement. Be selective when looking through insurance policies—they’re not necessarily all the same.
What do insurance adjusters look for?
Your insurance examiner / adjuster might seem friendly enough when they arrive to inspect the damage. They might talk about how they’re there to help with your roofing insurance claim. Personal good intentions aside, adjusters really are looking to answer two questions:
First, what is the extent of the damage, and was it caused by the event the homeowner claims caused it?
And, second, what issues with the roof might constitute pre-existing damage and limit the insurance company’s liability?
Let’s say your tile roof was damaged by a falling tree branch. It tore off several tiles, dented the gutter, and damaged the underlayment. The adjuster may take note of this damage, but also question whether or not certain tiles were broken prior to the tree branch falling in that general vicinity. They may inquire as to the prior condition of the underlayment, or how old the gutters were.
In general, adjusters want to ascertain that all damage to the roof was caused by the incident—not due to the age of the roof.
Does a new roof increase my home’s value?
Yes. Replacing your roof will boost the value of your home, along with its curb appeal. A new roof represents one less thing for homebuyers to worry about or pay for after moving in. If you do decide to upgrade your roof, make sure you add that to your online listing. Homeowners will see your new roof as a major reason to make an offer on your property.
A new roof has other benefits, too. If your shingle roof is more than 20 years old, you may have a tough time finding insurers who are willing to cover it without added costs, fees, or policy additions. The insurer may require you to pay for their inspection of your roof prior to starting or renewing the policy. From the insurer’s point-of-view, this due diligence helps them reduce their own liability. After all, they don’t want to provide full coverage for a failing roof.
If your roof is getting older and hasn’t been inspected in some time, now’s the time to call a professional roofer and get someone out to take a closer look. A trusted roofer will be able to tell you whether or not your roof needs to be replaced.
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KY-KO Roofing is a trusted roofing company here in Phoenix, Arizona. We help homeowners with all their roofing needs—including local, Phoenix roofing replacement. We offer free roofing checkups throughout the Valley, and handle all forms of roofing repair and replacement.
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