If you’re sitting in your home during a thunderstorm and you notice a stream of water trickling down the wall, chances are your roof has sprung a leak. Roof leaks can cause major damage to your home and personal belongings, so it’s important to understand if your home insurance covers the losses.
The most common forms of homeowners insurance typically cover damages to roofs caused by falling tree limbs, hail, and wind. But a standard home insurance policy might not cover all roof leaks. Learn which types of roof leaks your homeowners insurance covers.
- Most standard home insurance policies cover roof losses caused by storm damage.
- Homeowners insurance typically does not cover roof damage caused by gradual wear and tear or neglect.
- Homes in some areas may need the additional protection of earthquake or flood insurance policies.
- In some coastal areas, home insurance policies do not cover hail and wind losses.
Homeowners Insurance May Cover Roof Leaks
Oftentimes, a standard homeowners policy will cover damages caused by roof leaks, but it will depend on what type of home insurance policy you carry and what caused the roof leak. Most homeowners insurance policies will require you to complete the repairs before fully reimbursing you.
Keep in mind that a home insurance policy doesn’t automatically pay up to the limit of the maximum it will cover. For instance, if shingles blow off your roof during a windstorm, your coverage may only pay to replace the missing shingles, not the entire roof.
Homeowners have several different types of home insurance to choose from, each covering damage from perils in different ways. Perils are the cause of the damage, and they can include the weight of ice, sleet, or snow, explosions, fire, lightning, hail, falling objects, and windstorms.
HO-3 and HO-2 policies are among the most common types of coverages accepted by mortgage companies. So if you have a mortgage, it’s likely that you have one of the following:
- HO-3 policy: The most common type of policy, HO-3 policies protect your home from all perils unless they are specifically excluded. However, your possessions are protected only from perils that are named in the policy.
- HO-2 policy: This type of policy offers more limited dwelling coverage. Your dwelling and your possessions are only protected against damage from perils that are specifically named.
So, you can see why the cause of your roof leak plays a role in whether your particular homeowners insurance covers it. For example, if you have an HO-3 policy and a fallen tree limb damages your roof, you’ll have a valid claim unless it was specifically excluded. Or, if you have an HO-2 policy, and a windstorm damages your roof, causing it to leak, the insurer will cover the damage if it’s a named peril.
Personal Property Losses
Most homeowners policies will cover sudden water damage to personal property, such as furniture, unless it is specifically excluded, but only under certain conditions.
If a hailstorm damages your roof and incoming rain soaks your sofa, your home insurance will likely help pay to replace it. But if the sofa sustains damage due to a gradual leak, the insurance company may not pay the claim.
Unattached Structures Losses
If an unattached structure, like a separate garage or shed, suffers roof damage, your policy’s other structures coverage may cover repair costs. Standard home insurance policies usually provide other structures coverage equal to a certain percentage, such as 10% of dwelling coverage, but they may not provide coverage if those structures are used for business purposes.
So, if your policy provides $200,000 in dwelling coverage, it may provide $20,000 in other structures coverage.
Losses Caused by Downed Trees
Coverage for losses caused by downed trees is typically provided by the policy of the homeowner with the damaged property, regardless of who owns the property with the tree.
For instance, if a healthy tree in your yard damages your roof during a thunderstorm, you can file a claim against your homeowners dwelling coverage. And if your roof was damaged by your neighbor’s tree, you’ll likely also file a claim with your insurance, not your neighbor’s.
Whether an insurer pays a claim for damages caused by a fallen tree often depends on the condition of the tree. Generally, carriers pay claims when they determine that a tree has fallen due to an act of nature and not someone’s fault.
Homeowners are responsible for removing dead or diseased trees. So, if a dead tree in your yard falls on your roof, the insurer may deny a claim.
At times, a roof may collapse due to undetectable damage. For example, a roof may sustain gradual damage caused by animals or insects, defective materials, faulty construction, or unseen decay. Generally, home insurance policies cover this type of roof damage.
When Homeowners Insurance Won’t Cover Roof Leaks
Neglecting your home’s roof can lead to losses that your insurance company won’t cover. For example, rotting or termite-ravaged rafters can cause a roof to collapse, or crumbling chimney masonry can lead to a roof fire. When you see roof damage, repair it immediately to prevent leaks and other damages.
Although your roof may appear to be in good condition, you must also maintain good water flow by keeping downspouts and gutters clean. Also, maintain systems such as wiring, plumbing, and hot water heaters in attics, which can cause roof damage when breakdowns occur.
Generally, homeowners policies will not cover visible roof problems that the homeowner could have noticed and repaired following a routine inspection. That might include:
- Deterioration caused by age or wear and tear
- Fungus, mold, or wet rot
- Damages caused by birds, insects, rodents, or vermin
Standard home insurance policies do not cover any damages caused by earthquakes or flooding.
How To Prepare for Roof Leaks
Perform routine home inspections to detect roof leaks. The sooner you spot signs of leakage, the more likely you can prevent further damage. When inspecting your home, look for interior dampness, mildew, mold, or water stains. Outside, inspect your roof for damage or missing roof shingles, damaged roof flashing, and drooping or clogged gutters.
In some cases, a standard homeowners policy might not provide enough protection.
Standard home insurance policies do not cover earthquake damage to your home or its contents.
But many carriers offer standalone earthquake policies or earthquake riders. Homeowners living in areas prone to earthquakes, landslides, or land movements may need earthquake insurance.
Typically, earthquake damage does not exceed a policyholder’s home insurance deductible, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Standard homeowners policies do not cover any losses, including to roofs, caused by floods. If you live in a flood-prone area, protect your home with flood insurance. Many major insurance companies offer flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
NFIP policies cover up to:
- $250,000 in dwelling losses
- $100,000 in personal property losses
Optional Coverage for Coastal Dwellings
Some insurers do not cover hail or wind damage to homes in coastal areas. For example, insurance companies typically exclude hail and wind damage coverage for homes along the Texas Gulf Coast. However, Texas coastal residents can purchase hail and wind coverage through the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.
If you live in a coastal area that is prone to hurricanes and tropical storms, make sure your home insurance policy covers hail and windstorm losses. If it doesn’t, contact your state’s department of insurance to find out how to obtain storm coverage.
The Bottom Line
Roof leaks can lead to much larger problems. They can rot rafters, destroy drywall, and ruin flooring and furniture.
While your homeowners policy might cover damages caused by falling objects, hail, or wind, it’s important to maintain your roof to prevent leaks. When roof leaks occur, make prompt repairs to prevent further damage. Failing to maintain your roof can lead to rejected claims when leaks occur.
Although many homeowners can rely on the roof coverage of a standard home insurance policy, others may need additional protections such as earthquake or flood insurance, or additional hail and wind coverage for coastal dwellings.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much does homeowner's insurance cost?
Insurance companies base home insurance rates on several factors, including your home’s age and construction type, security features, and its proximity to a fire hydrant and fire station. Typically, newer homes cost less to insure because their heating, plumbing, roof, and wiring systems are in good condition. Your policy’s coverage levels and deductible can also impact your premium.
How much homeowners insurance do I need?
Typically, you need to carry dwelling coverage equal to at least 80% of your home’s replacement cost. If you insure your house for less than 80% of the cost to rebuild it, you may have to shoulder some of the replacement costs following a total loss.
Also carry enough personal property coverage to replace contents, such as clothing and furniture.
How do you check your roof for leaks?
The warning signs of a roof leak can include cracked rafters, ripples in roof supports, or noticeable sagging of the roof. You may also notice doors or windows that are difficult to close or open, cracks in masonry or walls, or sprinkler heads that have fallen below the ceiling. Cracking or creaking sounds in your house may also indicate a roof problem.