Despite your best efforts, you can’t always prevent a roof from letting water leak into your home. This can be both annoying and destructive with items in your home getting damaged. Getting the problem taken care of as soon as possible is paramount to preventing further damage.
But that raises an important question: Does home insurance cover roof leaks? The answer, as it is with most insurance questions, depends on your particular situation and policy.
How Home Insurance Handles a Leaking Roof
Let’s break down four 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, “covered peril” causes your roof to leak. That just means that the event that created the roof leak is already covered by your insurance policy. An HO3 policy, for example, is an open perils policy, so it covers damage from most events, including:
- 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 lets inside. More on that below.
Scenario 2: Roof Leak Caused by Poor Maintenance
We’ve mentioned before that homeowners policies usually don’t cover wear and tear. The same goes for damage that could have been prevented by regular maintenance.
So if your roof’s leaking because you neglected to update it, 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 take care of your house. The insurance company is only on the hook when unexpected and acute events cause damage.
This is also why you may not be reimbursed for all the related damage if you didn’t notice a leak for several months. Someone who maintains their home to reasonable standards would likely notice a roof 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 a claim payout. The following events aren’t covered in most home insurance policies:
- Wear and tear
- Lack of regular and proper maintenance
If any of the above caused a roof leak, you may have to pay for repairs out of pocket.
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 most likely doesn’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 hire a good contractor. In most cases, you’ll want to make sure the roofer you hire has an active 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.
How to Spot a Roof Leak
Spotting a leak early can help prevent a lot of the damage that water can cause inside your home. Some signs of a potential roof leak include
- Missing, damaged, or warped shingles.
- Water stains on your ceiling or the underside of your roof.
- Damaged insulation or mold in your attic.
- Discolored exterior walls**.**
- Bulges on interior walls.
- Musty odors.
What to Do If Your Roof Is Leaking
A leaky roof needs to be taken care of as quickly as possible to minimize damage. The first step is to move your personal property like beds, rugs, and furniture out of the way. Next, grab buckets or trash cans to catch water and protect your floors. You may also find that you need to poke small holes in your ceiling if you see it sagging under the weight of collected water.
Another way to protect your home is to tarp your roof to prevent water from getting inside. Only take this step if you can do so safely. You can also hire a professional roofer to tarp your roof. That may be your best bet considering you will also want to schedule repairs.
Lastly, be sure to document the leak and the damage it caused for your insurance company. Photos or video recording can help your claims adjuster assess the situation.
How to File a Claim for a Roof Leak
Once you’ve mitigated your damages, you need to file a claim with your insurer. Most insurance companies offer several ways to do this. For instance, our members can:
We can usually find your policy with just your address, but other insurance providers may need your policy number. You may also want to have any photos of the damage handy. If your roof is leaking when you call, our representative can help you with emergency services. You’ll work with a claims specialist who can inspect your damage and explain the available coverage.
Still Have Questions about Your Roof?
Editor’s note: This content was originally published in February 2019 and has been updated for accuracy.