As a homeowner, discovering a water stain on your ceiling can be a distressing experience. It could mean that your roof has a leak. What’s even scarier is that your insurance may not cover the damage. So when does homeowners insurance cover roof leaks? Keep reading to find out.
When You’re Covered
A standard homeowners insurance policy will typically cover a roof leak if the leak occurs suddenly and accidentally, as opposed to gradually. The leak must be also be caused by a covered peril—in other words, a peril that is listed on your policy. Examples of covered perils include stormy weather, fires and accidents.
For example, let’s say you own a home with a roof that is in sound condition. If a sudden hailstorm creates a crack in the roof and rainwater seeps in, the damage to your roof as well as the resulting water damage to your home may be covered. You would still have to pay your deductible, of course.
When You’re Not Covered
Homeowners insurance won’t cover leaks that develop over time due to poor maintenance or neglect on the homeowner’s part. For example, if you knew about a crack at the base of your chimney and never got around to fixing it, the resulting damage would not be covered.
Not all roof leaks are easy to pinpoint, as water can play tricks behind the walls. It can drip between the studs, slither across a beam, and gradually stain a ceiling far from where the source of the leak is actually located.
Whether the source of the leak is obvious or not, your homeowners insurance carrier can deny your claim if they determine that you could have done more to prevent the damage before it developed.
Roof Leaks: Covered vs. Not Covered
An insurance peril is an event that may damage your home or belongings. A covered peril means that your homeowners insurance will pay to repair any damage caused by one of these events. Examples of covered perils include lightning, fire and wind.
Put simply, if damage is caused by a covered peril, your homeowners insurance may pay to repair it. But if damage is caused by something other than a covered peril—an exclusion, in other words—then you as the homeowner must pay to repair it.
To limit confusion, a standard homeowners policy will typically list all exclusions. Please read your policy carefully to understand what your insurance carrier will and will not cover.
When it comes to roof leaks, here are some common covered perils and exclusions:
- Wind, hail or rainstorm
- Foundation settling
- Negligent action
How to Find Roof Leaks
Roof leaks should be fixed as soon as possible to prevent any damage to the inside of your home. Some signs of a roof leak like are obvious, like stains on your ceilings or mold. Other signs aren’t as visible.
Here are some places where you might find evidence of a leak:
- Inside the home – Be on the lookout for drywall that is bubbling up, water stains on ceiling or walls, and condensation on nails or other surfaces.
- The attic – Check the attic floor and the bottom of the rafters. Look in particular for mold growth, stains, carpenter ant damage, dark spots on wood and any kind of moisture. A mildew smell is another sign of a roof leak.
- The roof itself – Working on roofs is dangerous, so we recommend that you let a professional inspect your roof. Among other things, your roofer will look for loose or broken shingles and corroding flashing.
How to Prevent Roof Leaks
The best defense against roof leaks or minor damage is to prevent them from happening in the first place.
Regular Roof Inspections
Getting your roof inspected by an expert is a smart financial decision, especially if it’s an old roof nearing the end of its life expectancy. You may have to pay money up front, but it will save you from expensive repair bills if they spot a potential leak. A roofer will walk your roof and check for deteriorating or missing shingles, compromised flashing around vents and chimneys, and other signs of damage.
If the inspection turns up nothing, you can rest comfortably knowing that your roof is in good shape. You’ll also have documentation of the inspection to show your insurance company that the roof was well maintained prior to any incident.
If your gutters are clogged with leaves and other debris, rainwater can pool in the gutter. This water can then get into your roof sheathing, causing it to rot or mold. In some cases, it can leak directly behind your siding, causing water damage within your walls. In the winter time, free-flowing gutters will prevent ice dams from forming on the edge of your roof.
Here is some more valuable information about roof leaks:
Mold is a form of fungus that uses moisture to grow on household surfaces. It is usually black, slightly fuzzy and may have specks of white, orange, green or brown.
Over time, mold eats away organic materials like drywall and wood, causing it to rot and fall apart. It’s important to report mold damage to your home insurance carrier right away, as the longer it sits, the more it grows.
Mold remediation is the process of removing harmful mold growth. A professional remediation team will assess the amount of mold in your home, dry out the affected areas and then remove the mold by applying a special fungicide or through other measures. Once the cleaning is done, you may need to repair certain damaged areas, such as your floor tiles.