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The saying “keeping a roof over your head” is synonymous with the very concept of home. Maintaining that roof, and repairing or replacing it when it gets damaged, can easily be one of the most expensive aspects of being a homeowner.
Snow, hail, rain, ice, and falling branches or debris can all damage your roof, and roofs aren’t cheap to fix or replace; the typical range for a roof repair project is between $5,569 and $11,413, according to 2020 data collected by home improvement site HomeAdvisor.
But here’s the good news: Most homeowners insurance policies cover roof replacement or repair if the damage is the result of an act of nature or sudden accidental event. It’s one of the main reasons people carry homeowners insurance.
“If lightning comes out of the sky and damages the roof, that’s going to be covered because you didn’t cause that yourself,” says Stacey Giulianti, chief legal officer at Florida Peninsula Insurance Company, a homeowners insurance company based in Florida.
Here’s how to get homeowners insurance to pay for repairs or for a new roof if it’s damaged in a storm.
How Homeowners Insurance Coverage Works for Your Roof
The roof is an essential part of your home’s structure, and so your homeowners insurance policy typically protects it from certain situations out of your control, such as fire, hail, falling objects and more.
If your roof is damaged by a covered peril in your policy, you can file a claim with your insurance company for a total or partial replacement of the roof. But your insurer won’t pay to replace or repair a roof that’s gradually deteriorating due to general wear and tear or neglect.
“Homeowners insurance isn’t a maintenance policy. You’re responsible for maintaining your own roof like you’re responsible for maintaining the rest of your house,” says Giulianti.
If you’re left wondering what most insurers cover when it comes to your roof, here are a few common instances:
- Lightning strikes
- Falling objects
- Natural disasters
Insurance companies may not cover roof damage if:
- You have an older roof (10-20 years or older)
- The roof hasn’t been maintained, leading to the roof damage
- There was intentional or accidental damage caused by the homeowner
- You live in a state with windstorm or hail storm exclusions, such as Florida and Texas, where hurricanes and hail storms are common
Be Aware of Disaster Deductibles
Whenever you file an insurance claim, you have to pay a deductible. It’s the amount of money you pay on an insurance claim before your coverage kicks in and pays the rest.
It’s standard for wind, hail and hurricanes to be covered by homeowners insurance; flood and earthquake policies are typically purchased separately. But each of these disasters can have its own deductible rules, depending on the insurance company and where you live.
For example, hurricane deductibles tend to be higher than other homeowners policy deductibles and usually take the form of a percentage of the policy limits, according to the Insurance Information Institute. So if you live on the coast or in an area that’s prone to hurricanes, you may end up paying a deductible that’s completely different from the one you choose.
Being aware of these various types of disaster deductibles, from hurricanes to wind and hail, will prevent surprise costs down the road. Check your policy and talk to your insurance company to learn exactly how your deductibles work.
How to File an Insurance Claim for a Damaged Roof After a Storm
There’s a standard process you can follow to file an insurance claim for a damaged roof. In an ideal world, filing a claim would always be a smooth process, but dealing with insurance companies can sometimes be frustrating and unpleasant. In order to prepare yourself for both, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you along the way.
1. Contact Your Homeowners Insurance Company
If you suspect there’s any damage to your roof after a storm, it’s important to contact your insurance company as soon as possible.
Take detailed notes and multiple photos of all damage to the house on the ground level — both interior and exterior. This documentation will be important when you’re filing the claim.
Try to avoid climbing on top of your roof to inspect the damage, because you can easily hurt yourself.
2. Find a Roofing Contractor
Now it’s time to reach out to at least three roofing contractors. Each will assess the repair or roof replacement cost and offer quotes that you’ll give to your claims adjuster later on.
“Most insurance companies prefer that a homeowner have a roofer look at it first before they file a claim,” says Ami Feller Wells, owner of Feller Roofing in New Braunfels, Texas. “They don’t want to waste the trip if there’s no damage.”
3. File an Insurance Claim
If the contractor confirms that there’s enough damage on the roof, the next step is to file a claim with your insurance company. It’s typically best to contact your insurer by phone, but depending on your insurer, it may be easier to file the claim online.
Keep in mind that time is of the essence when submitting a claim. Typically, homeowners have a year to file a claim. Some states give you more time, from two years up to even six years to file a claim. While this can vary significantly, generally the sooner you file the claim, the better.
Save your conversations with your insurer and important details along the way. While you’re filing the claim, submit photo documentation of the damage and any receipts for costs you’ve incurred. For example, your insurer will cover any additional living expenses if a covered incident temporarily made your home unlivable.
4. Make an Appointment with an Insurance Adjuster
Your insurance company will schedule an appointment for an adjuster to come out to your home and assess the roof damage. The adjuster will go on the roof, assess the damage, determine what is and is not covered for your roof claim and give you an estimate to provide to the roofing contractor. Ask the adjuster to share any documentation with you.
Try to get at least three roofing contractor estimates before you meet with the adjuster to have a general idea of how much the project will cost.
“Roofers aren’t allowed to negotiate with insurance companies. There’s a law about that. If you really want to argue with an insurance company as a homeowner, you need to use a public adjuster,” says Feller.
But a good roofing contractor will come to your appointment with your claim adjuster to make sure you’re getting a fair assessment and estimate. “As a service to our customers, we’ll go out and represent them up on the roof if they’d like,” says Feller. “It usually goes better when you have your roofer up there looking at stuff, too.”
5. Replace or Repair Your Roof
The roofing contractor will determine whether your roof needs to be replaced or repaired, depending on the severity of the damage.
If there are any changes in the original estimate, be sure to get documentation. It typically takes a day to replace or repair a roof, Feller says, and the project is officially done once it has passed a city inspection.
“Generally, the insurance company makes the payment to the customer. If there’s a mortgage company, they’ll also put them on the check,” Feller explains. “The homeowner needs to endorse the check, deposit, and then pay the contractor.”