Does my homeowners insurance policy cover storm damage to my roof?
Published: April 22, 2020
You spend a lot of money on homeowners insurance. What does it cover? And, what do you do if your insurance company denies, low-balls, or simply delays your claim? You have more power than you think.
There are innumerable ways your home can be damaged. You may immediately think of fire and storm damage like a tornado or hurricane. However, there can be water damage from a broken washing machine or ice maker line, vandalism, sinkhole, hidden decay, hail damage, sewage back-up, damage from blasting nearby or even from vibrations sent through the earth by heavy equipment being used in the vicinity.
The most typical homeowners claims in Florida are:
- Wind and hail damage to roofs
- Sinkhole damage
- Broken water lines to ice makers, plumbing and washing machines
- Fire damage
- Vandalism and theft
You paid for replacement cost
Your homeowners policy covers all storm damage to your roof. And, not only is your roof covered, it is covered for “replacement cost.” This means that the insurance company has promised you in your policy to replace your roof – regardless of age – if it is damaged by a storm. For example, suppose you have a 20 year old shingle roof that is working fine when it is damaged by a storm. Your policy provides for complete replacement of the roof with no depreciation. Some people feel bad about asking for the entire replacement cost of an older roof. Don’t. You paid for replacement cost in your premium, and the insurance company promised to provide you with replacement cost if you need a new roof.
What if the damage is caused by wind or hail?
If you suspect your roof has been subjected to high winds or hail, you need to have it examined by a qualified and experienced roofer immediately. You can have severe damage to the tiles or shingles on your house even if no tiles or shingles are blown off the house. Many roofs look fine from the ground even though they have been compromised by storm damage.
Shingles have a sealing strip between them. Many times, wind will lift the shingles and break the sealing strip during a storm. After the storm, the shingles simply lay back down in place – looking fine. If that sealing strip is compromised, then your roof likely needs to be replaced. This sealing strip is critically important to the integrity, functionality and longevity of your roof. If the sealing strip is compromised you roof will likely start leaking within a year or two of the wind event. That is why you need to have it examined immediately, before it starts leaking.
Likewise, tile roofs suffer from a similar predicament. The tiles themselves on a tile roof system are simply decorative. The water barrier for a tile roof is the underlayment – the paper below the tiles. In a strong wind, the wind can “chatter” the tiles on your roof. This means the wind gets up under the tiles and repeatedly shakes them up and down during a storm. After the storm, the tiles look fine. However, during the storm the chattering tiles have also shaken the nails securing them to the underlayment causing the holes around the nails to open up wider than they should. This allows water to seep in around the nail holes throughout the roof. As with shingles roofer, many times, the water damage does not begin to show up for a year or two from the wind event.
If your home is subjected to hail, you should also have your roof examined by a roofer. Some hail damage is easy to spot – like when it causes holes in your pool screen or dents the metal or lead boots on your roof. But, just as significant is hail damage that can only be seen close up. Often when hail hits a roof it causes what is known as degranulation of the shingles. Degranulation can only be seen on close inspection by someone who knows what they are looking for. When hail causes degranulation, the integrity of the shingle is compromised, and the serviceable life of the shingle is significantly shortened – all of which warrant roof replacement under your homeowners insurance policy.
Choosing a roofer
Before allowing a roofer to examine your roof for storm damage, you should quiz him about his experience in identifying storm damaged roofs. Ask him what he will be looking for and how he is going to document the damage. A qualified and experienced roofer will have a camera, video camera, and chalk readily available to document the damage. If you have doubts about the roofer’s ability to be able to identify and effectively communicate the damage to another, then don’t even let him on your roof. Find a roofer you are confident with.
If your roofer identifies wind or hail damage, then call your homeowners insurance company. Do not delay. There are certain time limits outlined in your policy that may prevent a recovery if you wait too long after discovering a problem. Ask your insurance company to send an adjuster out to inspect your home. Make sure the adjuster coordinates the visit with your roofer so that the roofer can show the adjuster the damage.
Under the Florida Building Code, if 25% of your roof needs to be replaced, the insurance company is required to replace the entire roof. Under Florida’s Insurance Statutes, even if less than 25% of the roof needs to be replaced, the insurance company must replace your entire roof if the repaired area won’t match the existing shingles. This is often the case when new shingles or tiles are interspersed into an older roof. Under either situation above, the insurance company must replace the entire roof with no deductions for depreciation.
What if the insurance company denies or underpays?
Most of the time, the insurance company does the right thing. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes, the insurance company will have an independent engineer or roofer come to inspect the roof. That independent engineer or roofer may say that the roof has no damage, or is simply failing because of age, wear and tear, or poor maintenance. Based on that report, the insurance company may deny the claim in its entirety or offer a low settlement.