If you suspect that you have a leak in your roof, acting swiftly to repair it helps avoid further damage to your home and possessions.
But: does homeowners insurance cover roof leaks and potentially remove some of the financial worries you may have? Below are the steps to take to protect your roof and your finances in the event of a leak.
Signs You May Have a Roof Leak
Identify potential roof leaks and damage as soon as possible — if you wait too long to identify and report the leak, homeowners insurance coverage might be jeopardized. The best way to spot a potential leak is to perform roof inspections at least twice a year and after major storms.
Here are some potential indoor signs you have a leak:
- Water stains on ceilings or walls
- Peeling or blistering paint
- Moisture in the attic
You may also notice these external signs of a leak:
- Roof decking decay
- Damaged shingles
- Damaged flashings
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Roof Leaks?
Your homeowners coverage will depend on the details of your specific policy. Insurance commonly covers some types of roof leaks — however, consult your particular insurance carrier and your policy documents to ensure you know what's covered.
If water damage stems from a lack of maintenance, for example, homeowners insurance generally does not cover repairs. However, if the water damage is caused by a roof leak after a storm or another cause beyond your control, insurance may cover the roof repair and damage to the home's structure and interiors.
As you begin exploring whether and how your insurance policy handles roof repairs, consider three key factors:
1. Replacement Cost Versus Actual Cost
This describes the type of coverage you have for repairs on your home. Replacement cost value reimburses you for the full cost to replace your roof and interiors, if needed. Actual cost value is based on how much the repairs will cost and then subtracts value because of the age or use of your roof. If you have replacement cost value coverage, generally the insurance company will pay you the actual cash value first. Then, once the repair or replacement is complete, they will reimburse you the extra money you paid for the repairs.
2. Amount of Deductible
Your homeowners insurance policy has a declarations page that lists your deductibles for different types of claims. Once the damage has been inspected, you can consult the declarations page or talk to your agent to find out what your deductible is.
3. Ordinance and Law Coverage
Also called O & L or code upgrade coverage, this pays any additional cost to bring your roof and its structure up to current code requirements. This only applies if your roof was constructed before a code upgrade.
Any time you experience a roof leak, it is recommended that you call a reputable roofing contractor. They will inspect the damage and diagnose the cause of the problem, and provide a professional assessment as to whether your roof needs to be repaired or replaced.
They may also be able to help you determine whether you may be eligible for warranty compensation from the roofing manufacturer. Having a professional roofing contractor involved may also be helpful in the event you decide to file a homeowners insurance claim, as they should be able to provide the insurance company with the information they need to process it. A contractor can also provide temporary protection or repairs until the claims process has been completed and permanent repair or replacement work can commence.
What Is the Process for Filing a Claim?
If your roof has been damaged or you discover a leak, you may be eligible to file a claim with your insurance policy in order to help pay for needed repairs or replacement. Although every insurance company is different, here is a general process for filing an insurance claim:
- If the damage was caused by vandalism or other criminal activity, report it to the police. You'll need a case number and a police report to back up your claim.
- Call a certified roofing contractor in your area to get an inspection of the damage. The contractor can help diagnose the problem and provide an opinion on what needs to be done to fix it. They'll take photos of the damage and provide temporary repairs to protect you from further damage.
- If a claim is warranted, contact your insurance company. Ask them for details about your coverage, the timeline for filing and processing the claim, and your deductible. The insurance company will send you the forms needed to start your claim—complete the claim forms as quickly as possible to avoid delays.
- The insurance company may send an adjuster, who will look over the damage, interview you, and determine how much the insurance company should pay. Keep all damaged items until the adjuster has completed their visit. If you have damaged personal items, provide proof of purchase to substantiate your claim.
- The insurance company will process the claim. If you cannot stay in your home due to the damage, most homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for living expenses, such as a hotel. Keep receipts and proof of payment for these expenses.
- Once the claim is approved, the contractor will meet with you to go over the scope of work, help you choose the right materials for the job, and schedule a time. The work will start with repairing or replacing the roof, followed by other materials such as gutters and siding.
- The contractor will submit a final invoice and certify that the work has been completed. Then, your insurance company will release payment.
Act Quickly to Protect Your Home