Is a Roof Leak Covered by Homeowners Insurance?

Contributor, Benzinga

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You might be wondering how to fix a leaky roof or how to get homeowners insurance to pay for a new roof. Good news: In many cases, a roof leak is covered by your homeowners insurance policy.

However, the cause of the roof leak is what determines whether the damage will be covered. Additionally, the roof of your home may be only partly covered for the cost of repair or replacement.

Check out our guide to learn more about what a typical homeowners’ insurance policy covers.

The Best Home Insurance for Roof Leaks:

Roof Leaks and Covered Perils

A standard homeowners insurance policy covers the most common risks to your home. These might be listed as covered perils on your homeowners insurance policy.

Some policies cover all perils except those that are specifically excluded. Most of the perils that might damage your roof are covered, like wind/hail, weight of snow and falling branches, so it makes sense to look at the exclusions.

The named exclusions on your homeowners insurance policy are causes of damage that will not be covered. Common named exclusions that might cause a roof leak:

  • Neglect
  • Mold, fungus or wet rot
  • Wear and tear and deterioration
  • Settling, shrinking, bulging or expanding
  • Birds, vermin, rodents and insects

Your homeowners insurance policy has more named exclusions than the 5 listed above, but these 5 are where you should focus your attention 1st. If the roof leak is caused by any of these conditions, the claim won’t be covered.

From your insurer’s point of view, a home insurance policy isn’t a maintenance policy, and these 5 exclusions from coverage are really maintenance items that the homeowner is responsible to repair.

Homeowners insurance policies are designed to cover damage that is sudden and accidental. Examples of roof leak claims that are usually covered:

  • Falling trees or limbs
  • Other falling objects
  • Windstorm or hail
  • Weight of ice, snow or sleet
  • Vandalism or malicious mischief

These risks are all sudden or accidental, with the exception of vandalism or malicious mischief, which is a covered peril because the homeowner is not at fault for the damage caused.

The causes of roof damage that aren’t covered by a homeowners insurance policy usually center on maintenance items and generally aren’t sudden.

  • Neglect isn’t sudden.
  • A roof that leaks due to wear isn’t sudden.
  • Settling might be sudden — but as a named exclusion, won’t be covered.
  • Wet rot isn’t sudden.

Deductibles and Roof Leak Coverage

Because so many roof leaks are caused by wind and hail, it’s important to discuss deductibles. Many homeowners insurance policies have up to three deductibles, each of which will apply in different situations.

  • A standard deductible applies for all perils, per occurrence.
  • Many policies have a wind/hail deductible, which is often higher than the standard deductible and only applies for wind or hail claims.
  • Homeowners near a coastline often have a third deductible, called a named storm deductible, which applies if the damage to your home is caused by named storm, like a hurricane or tropical storm.

    The name storm deductible, also called a hurricane deductible, is often based on a percentage of the dwelling coverage for your home. If your home is insured for $300,000, for example, the named storm deductible might be $6,000, assuming a two percent deductible.

Only 1 of these deductibles would apply for any single claim, but as you can see in the last example, the deductible can take a sizable bite out of your claim settlement.

If your policy also depreciates your roof based on wear and tear due to age, you can visualize your claim settlement shrinking to nearly nothing.

Coinsurance and Roof Leaks

Coinsurance is another concern with roof leak claims. A home that is insured for less than the full cost of rebuilding the home maybe subject to coinsurance, which means that claims will be paid as a percentage of insurance to value.

If your home cost $200,000 to rebuild but you have it insured for $100,000, the insurance the value is 50% and covered claims for your home will be paid at 50% — less the deductible.

Other Damage Caused by a Roof Leak

Often, the 1st indication you have that there’s a roof leak is when you notice water damage in ceilings, walls, overhead light fixtures, or even pooling water. In the case of larger leaks or leaks that have been going on for while, the roof leak itself might be the least expensive part of the repairs needed to your home.

It’s important, if at all possible, to stop the source of the water by covering the leaky area or finding a way to catch the water before it can cause more damage to other parts of your home.

The same coverages and exclusions for roof leaks that were discussed earlier will apply to other damage to your home that was caused by the roof leak. If your roof developed a leak because it was worn out, that claim would not be covered, meaning your insurance won’t pay for damage to the roof or to your home because the damage to your home was caused by a named exclusion.

As a homeowner, you already know home ownership requires vigilant maintenance and a keen eye for potential trouble.

Armed with the knowledge that homeowners insurance might not cover everything, you have good reason to be cautious and to make repairs before wear and tear cause a bigger problem.

Steps to Take if you Have a Roof Leak

  1. Cover the leak as quickly as possible, but with safety in mind. Your insurer doesn’t expect you to climb all over your house and risk injury.
  2. Move all your valuables out of harm’s way. Many of life’s comforts don’t mix well with water.
  3. Mop up water or use a wet vac to prevent water seepage that can lead to mold.
  4. Use a bucket or leak-proof container to catch any water that is still leaking through or dripping from ceilings. Be sure to empty the water container frequently to prevent overflows.
  5. Use a fan to help evaporate water.

Your insurer can usually send someone if your roof needs a tarp until the damage can be repaired.

The Best Home Insurance for Roof Leaks

It’s important to do your own research when you select a homeowners insurance company. Benzinga has compiled the top-rated companies you should explore.

Best For
First time policyholders
Pros
  • Top rated in every category in JD Power’s home insurance survey
  • Bundling home and auto policies creates an opportunity to save on Amica Auto Insurance
  • Annual dividends are paid on eligible policies based on surpluses
Cons
  • Expect customer support to be phone-based or web-based due to a small brick-and-mortar presence
  • Coverage for some homes may not be available through this insurer

1. Best Overall: Amica

Amica is 1 of the oldest insurance companies in the United States. Established in 1907 as an automobile insurer, it’s headquartered in Rhode Island and services most of the U.S.

Amica began selling homeowners insurance in 1956, after it had been well established as an automobile insurance company for close to 50 years. Today Amica has 44 offices throughout the U.S. and is among the most trusted names in insurance.

Amica separates itself from the pack:

With flexible payment options to allow the payment process to be easy and efficient for its customers.
Its representatives, not agents, to sell insurance and offer its clients assistance.

Check out Benzinga’s Amica Home Insurance Review.

Best For
Tailored coverage
Pros
  • A long and considerable list of discounts that can save you hundreds of dollars
  • Ability to manage and track claims directly from computers or mobile devices
  • Excellent claims rating
  • Established company
Cons
  • Decent financial stability, but could be improved
  • Customer service and claims handling not always consistent or satisfactory

2. Cheapest: Liberty Mutual

Liberty Mutual has been serving Nebraska’s residents since it opened its 1st office within the state in 1922.

The mutual insurance company opened its 1st office as a workers compensation insurance firm in Massachusetts in 1914 and began expanding its throughout the U.S. Today Liberty Mutual has 2 offices in Omaha which employ 31 people.

Liberty Mutual separates itself from the pack:

  • It provides a wide array of insurance products to help you save on your home, auto, and even business needs.
  • It provides an additional benefit should you be displaced from your home as the result of a claim.
Best For
Those who own investment properties
Pros
  • Prepackaged options that make buying easy
  • Other lines of insurance available
  • Above-average claims service and accepts prior claims
  • Accepts rural properties
Cons
  • Below-average customer service ratings
  • Must buy coverage through an agent

3. Best for Home Warranty: Farmers

Farmers Insurance has some of the most memorable commercials on television, thanks to the help of Oscar Winner J.K. Simmons. It has been helping families with their insurance needs since 1928.

Farmers separates itself from the pack by:

  • Hand-selecting each agent and putting them through a rigorous training process to make sure they are experts in insurance in your state.
  • Offering Claim Forgiveness if you go 6 or more years without making a claim.
Pros
  • Fast quote process
  • Complimentary smart home system in some states
  • Claims concierge service
Cons
  • Can’t file a claim online
  • Not available in all states

4. Best for Smart Homes: Hippo

Hippo offers traditional home insurance coverage, with a twist. In addition to the necessities, Hippo also offers more coverage than the average insurer for computers, home office equipment, appliances and electronics. It can even insure your babysitter.

Get a quote in as little as 60 seconds. Take advantage of its smart home upgrades to prevent potential issues.

Understand Your Insurance Policy

Roof leaks can be among the most damaging perils. Once water begins coming in, it can find its way in nearly everywhere. Be sure to cover the leak safely, and clean up any water in your home before it causes more damage.

It’s important to review your homeowners’ insurance policy annually. Make changes before you have a claim, and it’s too late to adjust your roof coverage.

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