How to File a Homeowners Insurance Claim for Roof Damage
In the aftermath of a storm or other event that leaves your roof damaged, it can be tempting to start repairs immediately to keep your family and all your belongings safe and dry. While you certainly don’t need to remain exposed to the elements until your insurance company pays out, it’s important to take the right steps before you schedule or undertake any repairs to make sure you can prove the cause and extent of the damage to get the most out of your claim. Fortunately, most insurance companies view the roof as being as important as you do and homeowners insurance policies generally cover roof damage, depending on the cause. It’s important to check your own policy to see how your provider handles roof damage.
Most insurers cover the following perils when it comes to your roof:
- Lightning strikes
- Falling objects (such as a tree in a windstorm)
- “Acts of God” (generally considered events outside human control, like natural disasters)
Roof damage may not be covered if:
- You have an old roof (10-20 years or older)
- The roof has not been maintained, which leads to the roof damage
- Intentional or accidental damage on the homeowner’s part
- You live in a state with windstorm or hail storm exclusions (states where hurricanes and hail storms are common, such as Florida and Texas)
Filing A Roof Damage Insurance Claim
If you have roof damage that needs repairing, you have to file a claim with your homeowners insurance company. Navigating the process of filing a claim can vary slightly by insurance company but generally the steps include:
- Document the damage. Be sure to take as many pictures as you can of the roof damage. If possible, also take pictures of what caused the damage (such as a fallen tree branch). Take these photos before you make any temporary repairs to the roof (such as tarping it to protect your home).
- Contact your insurance company. Call your insurance company as soon as you can to let them know there is damage to your roof, what the extent of the damage is (from what you can tell), and what caused it. Confirm whether the damage (and cause) is covered by your policy and how long you have to file a claim. If the roof damage is from vandalism, be sure to file a police report before contacting your insurance company.
- File the paperwork. The insurance company can provide you with the paperwork you need to file a claim. Submitting this paperwork is what initiates the claim process.
- Save receipts for repairs. Save all of the receipts that relate to securing the roof from further damage and any repairs made by you or a professional. Avoid having a professional make the roof repairs until the insurance company approves the claim as they may have a list of approved contractors for repairs and going outside that network may mean they won’t cover the cost. If your home is uninhabitable and you have to stay in a hotel, your insurance company may reimburse you for your stay.
- Expect a visit from an insurance adjuster. The insurance company may send out an insurance adjuster to assess the damage to your roof. The adjuster is going to take a lot of pictures of the roof damage, what caused it and the exterior of your home. The adjuster works with the insurance company and the roof repair company to determine the amount of the damage and the cost of repairing or replacing the roof.
- Know your appeal rights. Depending on the circumstances, your insurer may deny the claim or pay less than the repair or replacement cost. You have the right to hire a public adjuster to assess the damage and then provide a copy of the report to the insurance company to appeal the payout amount or denial of claim.
Do I have to file a claim before repairing my roof?
It is best to file a roof damage claim before repairing the roof. The insurance company may require you to work with an approved roof contractor to make the repairs. In some cases, the insurance company might decide to replace the roof rather than repair it. You can hire a professional to tarp the roof or protect it in some other way until the full repair or replacement is made.
Will filing a homeowners insurance claim for roof damage raise my premium?
Several different factors go into deciding on an increase in insurance premiums for a roof damage insurance claim. One factor is the number of insurance claims you have had in the last 10 years. If you have several claims in one to three years, then your insurance premiums are more likely to increase than if it’s the only claim you’ve made in the last 10 years. Other factors are the cause of the claim, the total cost of claim, and the state you live in.
How long will it take to settle my claim?
Claim processing times can vary depending on the type and severity of the damage, how many other claims the company is processing (as in the case of a natural disaster), how quickly you make the claim, and when an adjuster is available to assess the damage. Once the claim is settled, it can take 30 to 60 days to receive the claim check, although some states have laws that regulate the check must be received within 30 days of settlement.
Does homeowners insurance cover roof leaks?
Homeowners insurance may or may not cover roof leaks, depending on what caused the roof leak. If the roof leak was caused by a covered peril then homeowners insurance should cover it. Insurance tends to not cover roof leaks if the leak is due to an older roof, neglected or poorly maintained roof, or something the homeowner did to damage the roof.
Will my claim be denied because my roof is old?
It is possible that an insurance claim for roof damage will be denied because of the age of the roof. If the roof is too old or the damage is caused by normal wear and tear, it is unlikely that your insurance policy is going to cover the cost to repair the damage or replace the roof. SFGate estimates the average life expectancy of an asphalt shingle roof is 20 to 40 years while wood shingles should last for 30 years and fiberglass shingles should last 50 years.