Follow these tips to ensure your roofing insurance claim is handled correctly
When a storm or some other accident damages your home’s roof, you’ll probably need to negotiate the process of filing a claim with your insurance company. Don’t despair, though. This doesn’t have to be a migraine-inducing experience—especially if you can sidestep the most common roofing insurance claim pitfalls.
Follow these six simple tips to better understand your insurance policy and learn how to submit your claim promptly.
1. Read Your Insurance Policy’s Fine Print
Like every contract, an insurance policy contains fine print. That language might be tough to slog through, but the fine print is often what determines whether your claim is approved or denied.
It’s especially important to know what your deductible is. That’s the amount of money you’ll have to shell out of your own pocket before the insurance company takes over the repair costs. What’s more, in some states, insurance companies can set two different deductibles: one for damage from hurricanes and a lower amount for everything else.
The fine print will also likely list how you’ll need to file your claim and what documentation you’ll need to provide for the claim to be approved.
2. Know What’s Covered By Your Insurance Company
In most cases, your insurance policy will cover minor damage caused by events you had no control over. Typically, they’ll cover repairs caused by events, such as storms, high winds, or natural disasters that rip off a few shingles, but won’t cover any damage you caused. For example, most residential roofs can take a little foot traffic, but if you allow too many people up there or they're wearing the wrong kind of footwear, the resulting damage will likely not be covered by your policy.
Additionally, make sure your policy actually covers your home’s roof. That might seem obvious, but many policies will only cover roofs made out of specific materials. If your roof is made with a non-approved substance, your insurance won’t cover the damage.
You may also have to pay more out of pocket or be required to comply with added maintenance requirements if you used non-approved materials or methods for earlier repairs. It’ll be too late to fix this after your roof’s been damaged, so make sure the policy covers your roof before you sign on the dotted line.
3. Figure Out What’s Excluded From Your Home’s Insurance Policy
Insurance policies usually include a list of events and kinds of damage that aren’t covered. These exclusions can cause huge problems later, especially if you pay for the work yourself expecting the insurance company to reimburse you fully.
It’s crucial to be familiar with these exclusions before disaster strikes. For instance, many policies exclude claims for a full roof replacement and will only pay for repairs. Other policies may even limit repair claims to a certain amount or a stated percentage of the total roof area.
Your homeowners insurance policy may exclude damage caused by floods or earthquakes, especially if you live in an area that’s prone to such extreme weather events. Your policy might also exclude coverage for damage caused by high winds or hail. (However, you might be able to purchase additional coverage or accept a higher deductible to make sure you’re fully covered.)
4. Maintain Your Roof Properly and Keep Records
One surefire way to get your roof insurance claim denied is to avoid maintaining it in the years before the damage. Most insurance policies require homeowners to take proper care of the roof according to the recommendations of the roofing material manufacturers. Doing so will also help you ensure the roof warranty stays valid.
"The more foliage you have overhead, the more maintenance you may need,” says Ami Feller, owner of Feller Roofing in New Braunfels, TX. “Keep the roof clear of debris and keep trees and other plants at least 3 inches off the roof at all times. Low-hanging branches can rub holes in your roof."
Save all documentation of your roof maintenance activities, including warranties, receipts, quotes, and other documents. Keep copies of all relevant documents safely filed away. It’s not a bad idea to get a personal home safe that will withstand both fire and water to protect your home insurance and maintenance records.
5. File Your Roofing Insurance Claim Promptly
If a storm or other accident damages your roof, you may also be dealing with a host of other complications. Even so, do your best to get a claim for roof damage filed with your insurance company as soon as humanly possible. Homeowner claims for damaged roofs are often denied because the claim wasn’t filed quickly enough.
That might seem hypertechnical, but there’s a good reason behind this approach: Delays tend to cause further damage, further jacking up the repair costs. So the longer it takes to get the roof fixed, the more the damage may spread, and the more it will ultimately cost to get the roof back into pre-damage condition.
Finally, the amount you can expect to pay for roof repairs may vary widely depending on several factors, such as whether there’s a chimney or prior water damage. Start the process of collecting estimates for your roof’s repair as soon as you can so that the contractor can start work quickly.
“Your insurance provider is a great resource for what detailed information you may need to file a claim,” says Asya Biddle, Angi Expert Review Board member and manager of The Dust Busters janitorial company in Williamsport, PA. “Oftentimes, your provider can walk you through the steps of filing the claim and/or transfer you to their claims department directly from their office.”
6. Know Your Roof’s Age
On average, roofs usually last at least 10 to 12 years. However, damage or a lack of proper maintenance can shorten that lifespan. But what if your roof is older—say, around 25 years old or so?
Unfortunately, if that’s the case, your claim may be denied. Most roof insurance policies won’t pay to repair any roof over 20 years old when it’s damaged. However, insurance exclusions due to the roof’s age can and do vary widely, so here’s another reason you’ll want to read the terms of your policy carefully.