Your roof is leaking. Now what?
How Home Insurance Handles a Leaking Roof
The first question most homeowners have when they discover their roof is leaking: will insurance cover the damage? As usual, it depends on what caused the roof leak and how soon you noticed it and took action.
Let's break down five common roof leakage scenarios and how your home insurance may respond in each.
Scenario 1: Roof Leak Caused by a “Covered Peril”
In this scenario, the incident that caused your roof leak was one that is covered by your insurance policy – a “covered peril.” In a standard homeowners insurance policy, covered perils include the following:
- Lightning strikes
- Falling objects (like trees)
- Weight of ice, sleet, or snow
- Impact from a land or air vehicle (like a falling plane fragment)
- Theft or vandalism
If any of the above caused your roof leak, there’s a good chance your insurance may pay to repair the leak itself. Assuming you notice the leak quickly and inform your insurance company right away, your policy may also pay for secondhand damage the leak caused (e.g., water damage to personal possessions).
There is a big “however” here: if you don’t notice the leak for several months after it happens, there’s a chance your policy will only pay to repair the roof damage itself and not any additional damage caused by water or creatures the leak let inside. More on that below.
Scenario 2: Roof Leak Caused by Poor Maintenance
We’ve mentioned before that insurance policies don’t offer coverage for wear and tear damage. It also doesn’t offer coverage for damage that could have been prevented by regular maintenance.
So if your roof’s leaking because you neglected to update it or clear the gutters or otherwise do basic home maintenance, your insurance company may deny your claim and refuse to pay for repairs.
That's because it’s your job as a homeowner to do basic maintenance. The insurance company is only on the hook when unexpected and acute events cause damage.
This is also why a leak you didn’t notice for several months might not receive reimbursement for all the related damage. Someone who maintains their home to reasonable standards would have likely noticed the leak before the water damage escalated.
Note: this is a broad overview. Every individual circumstance is different. It is possible that there’s a perfectly legitimate reason you didn’t notice a roof leak for some time after it happened.
Scenario 3: Roof Leak Caused by a Non-Covered Peril
As you may have guessed by the word “non-covered,” a leak caused by an event your homeowners insurance doesn't cover likely won’t lead to an insurance payout. In a typical home insurance policy, the following events aren’t covered:
- Wear and tear
- Lack of regular and proper maintenance
In other words, if any of the above caused a roof leak, assume you’re on your own to pay for repairs.
Scenario 4: Roof Leak Caused by Poor Workmanship
So what happens if you’re a diligent homeowner and replace your roof on schedule, but it springs a leak because the roofing contractor you hired did a substandard job?
This can be really frustrating, not least because new roofs aren’t cheap. The bad news is that your homeowners insurance likely wouldn’t cover a leak caused by shoddy workmanship. But that doesn’t mean you’re without options. In that scenario, you may be able to make a claim on the roofer’s insurance policy.
This is why it’s so important to make sure the people you hire to work on your home are insured. In most cases, you’ll want to make sure the roofer you hire has an active general liability insurance policy. That policy should offer payment for property damage caused by the roofer’s work (like a leak to your roof and subsequent damage to your home).
To verify coverage, ask to see a certificate of insurance before you sign a contract. When you do, check to make sure the policy expiration date is sometime after the end of the work they’ll be doing on your home.