Does home insurance cover roof leaks?

Mon Jul 15 2024

Young woman holds two buckets while looking up at her ceiling as water pours down

If your roof starts to leak due to a covered peril such as a fire, falling object, or lightning strike, it may be covered by home insurance. But roof leaks caused by neglect, improper installation or maintenance, normal wear and tear, or an uncovered peril, then your damage is probably not covered.

Read on to learn more about when roof leaks are and aren’t covered by insurance and what questions you should ask when buying coverage.

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: A 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 typically covers damage from most events, including:

  • Lightning strikes

  • Falling objects (like trees)

  • Fire

  • Wind

  • Explosion

  • Hail

  • Weight of ice, sleet, or snow

  • Impact from a land or air vehicle (like a falling plane fragment)

  • Theft or vandalism

  • Riots

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: A 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: A roof leak caused by a noncovered peril

As you may have guessed by the word “noncovered,” 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:

  • Earthquakes

  • Floods

  • 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: A 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. 

  • Sagging 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 repair.

At some point, you’re going to want to inspect your attic, too. A professional roofer can do that for you, or you can take a look at it yourself. 

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?

Check out our other roof-related blog posts: What’s in a roof? and Florida wind mitigation breakdown. Or give us a call to talk with one of our in-house insurance gurus.


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