Your home is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make. A homeowners insurance policy helps you to protect your investment should something happen to it.
When it comes to your home, the roof is one of the most crucial components. It keeps everything (and everyone) safe and dry. To a homeowners insurance company, a good roof helps to prevent claims. As such, most insurance companies want to ensure that your roof is in good shape before they’ll provide coverage. Having a bad roof doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get coverage, though. Here’s what you need to know.
Just like your roof, a homeowners insurance policy helps to protect the things inside your home. The insurance policy covers financial loss due to events such as storms, fire, vandalism, and theft. To help ensure that the items in your home remain safe, insurance companies generally want to make sure that your roof is in good shape. After all, when it is, you’re less likely to have to file a claim.
While insurance companies would prefer your home to have a newer roof, that doesn’t necessarily mean having an older one will lead to denial of coverage. The process, however, will likely be much more difficult.
Generally, the older your roof, the harder it is to get home insurance. It presents a more significant risk to an insurance company, one they’d likely prefer to avoid. A worn or damaged roof increases the likelihood that you’ll have problems in the home, which will lead to more claims.
Most home insurance companies won’t insure a home if the roof is more than 20 years old, at least not without it passing inspection. During this process, an inspector looks over your roof for signs of damage, deterioration, leaks, and other issues. While older roofs are likely to show some signs of wear and tear, the inspection will let you know the extent of the damage. You may find that you only need to repair certain parts of the roof, which can save you a lot of trouble, as well as a lot of money.
The next step to take after getting an inspection and addressing the issues at hand is to shop around for homeowners insurance companies. Your current (or prospective) insurer might not provide you with coverage, but another one might. Some insurance companies may provide coverage, but it will be significantly limited. What this means is that you’ll only get insured for the roof’s actual cash value. If your roof gets damaged, you’ll only get reimbursed for its depreciated value, rather than for the total cost of a roof replacement. In the event that you do need to repair the entire roof, the money you get will cover some of the costs, but you’ll have to pay for the rest.
Most homeowners insurance policies will cover the cost of replacing a roof, but only in certain situations. Different policies provide different protections, though, so you should read yours carefully to understand what specific coverages you have.
In general, most homeowners insurance policies will pay for a new roof if it’s damaged by one of the following perils:
Heavy winds (such as those caused by a hurricane or tornado)
Snow or ice buildup
Again, every insurance company is different. What one company covers, another might not. Most home insurance companies, however, likely won’t cover the following events:
Birds, rodents, or insects
Ordinance of law
In some cases, you may have to take out separate deductibles based on where you live. For instance, if you live in an area where hurricanes are known to occur frequently, you might have to take out what’s called a named storm or hurricane deductible. Otherwise, your policy might not cover the damage to your roof. Homeowners in areas where these occurrences are rare, on the other hand, might have the event included in their regular policy. You may also need a flood endorsement (or a separate flood insurance policy) to cover damages caused by a hurricane flood.
There are also a few other nuances to homeowner’s insurance to consider:
Leaks. Does homeowners insurance cover roof leaks? In many cases, your homeowners insurance policy will cover leaks. The caveat, however, is the cause. If your roof’s leak occurs because of an event covered by your policy (such as wind damage), your insurance company will cover it. If the leak is the result of deterioration over time or lack of maintenance, you likely won’t be covered.
Ice dams. If you live in a colder region of the country, you’re probably familiar with icicles and ice accumulation on the roof. These issues can block your gutters, which can lead to overflowing water, roof damage, and leaks. In some cases, they can cause the roof to collapse. Your policy may cover the damage to your roof, but it may not cover any damages caused to the inside of your home.
Rodents. Rodents, particularly squirrels, can cause a lot of damage to your roof. Generally, homeowners insurance won’t cover your roof if these animals gnawed holes into it that led to leaking and other issues. The reason for this is because it’s considered gradual damage that occurs as a result of improper maintenance. If, however, a squirrel (or other creature) causes sudden damage, such as gnawing on wiring that leads to a fire, then your roof will likely be covered.
To get coverage for your roof, you’ll need to file a claim with your insurance company. You’ll need to submit evidence to support it. Photos of your roof before and after the event can be particularly beneficial. If your roof is more than ten years old, you may also want to consider getting it inspected (even if it’s not required by your insurance company). You can submit the inspection to let your insurance company know that the roof was in good condition before the incident. The insurance company will also send out an inspector to survey the damage and determine if it’s covered.
Let’s say that a severe storm tears through your area and destroys your roof. If your roof was in good condition beforehand, you’re likely to get coverage. If your roof was more than 15 to 20 years old, however, the inspector may determine that it was the damage was the result of deterioration over time. In such cases, your claim is likely to be denied.
As mentioned previously, some insurance companies may not approve a homeowner’s insurance application or renewal if the roof is more than 20 years old. The companies that do provide coverage for older roofs typically require you to get an inspection first. Even if the roof passes, you may only receive coverage for its depreciated value.
If your older roof fails inspection, your application for coverage is likely to be denied. If you already own your home, your insurance company might cancel your policy until you show that you’ve repaired or replaced the roof.
While replacing the roof is an expensive endeavor, it might be the only way to get or continue insurance coverage. Fortunately, you may not have options. The first thing to do is shop around for different roofers and get quotes for a replacement. The second thing to do is ask about financing. Some roofing companies may offer options, which will allow you to pay the cost of your new roof off over time. Other options include a personal loan or home equity loan.
No roof will last forever. Being vigilant and monitoring your roof, however, can help you spot signs of deterioration before they become a serious issue. Some signs to watch for include:
Worn, broken, buckled, or missing shingles
Finding granules from your shingles in your gutters
Water damage in your attic
Cracks in your flashing
Ideally, you should inspect your roof every spring. If you notice any of these issues, you should have them addressed right away. In some cases, you may be able to get away with repairs, rather than needing a full replacement.
Regardless of your roof’s age, regular maintenance will help to ensure it stays in excellent shape. The following are a few things you can do to protect it and ensure its longevity:
Get regular inspections. Hiring a professional to inspect your roof regularly will help you stay on top of potential issues and address them before they become serious. If the inspector does note a problem (such as missing or broken shingles), get it fixed right away.
Keep current photos. While insurance companies want pictures of the damage after an event, submitting pictures of the roof’s condition before the event occurred will show them that it was in decent shape before you filed your claim.
Cut back trees. Tree limbs that hang over your roof present potential hazards. A strong wind could knock a limb down. Animals could use the limbs to get onto your roof and cause damage. Cutting them back reduces your risk of roof problems.
Maintain records. Keep track of all of your repairs and inspections. Should you need to file a claim, they can be helpful for demonstrating the condition of your roof before the event.
While it is possible to get homeowners insurance for a home with an older roof, there are several things to keep in mind. Even if it passes inspection, the insurance company may only provide coverage for the roof’s value now, which means you still need to pay the rest of the cost out of pocket if you need to repair or replace it. If the roof fails inspection, you might not get any coverage at all. Weigh your options carefully to determine if it’s worth it to replace the roof, or if you can live with only receiving a portion of the replacement cost should an incident occur.