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Your homeowners insurance policy generally covers roof leaks and other damages to your roof, as long as the cause of the damage is not specifically excluded by your policy. But it’s important to note: if a leak occurs due to a lack of maintenance, you may have to pay for the repairs yourself. Also, make sure to consider your home insurance policy's deductibles to determine whether filing a claim makes the best financial sense.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Roof Leaks?
Most roof leaks are covered by homeowners insurance policies. However, whether your policy will reimburse you for the repair of a roof leak—and any subsequent damage to your belongings—will depend on the original cause of the leak. Your home insurance policy's declaration page will explain which perils are covered or excluded under your current policy.
Most homeowners insurance policies cover an “open peril” list. These perils typically include, but are not limited to the following.
|Perils Covered by Most Homeowners Insurance Policies|
|Fire and smoke (including wildfires)||Damage from riots|
|Hail and windstorms||Excess weight due to snow, ice or sleet|
|Vandalism||Freezing of household amenities, such as the AC or heating system|
|Theft||Sudden and accidental breaking, cracking or bursting of pipes and other household systems|
|Damage from vehicles||Damage due to the sudden and accidental discharge of water or steam|
|Damage from aircraft||Sudden and accidental damage due to an electrical surge|
As a general rule, open perils include any damage resulting from a sudden and accidental incident, unless the cause of that damage is specifically excluded in your homeowners insurance policy. On the other hand, your insurance company will deny any claims filed for gradual wear and tear or your own lack of maintenance. For example, if a storm knocks down a tree and it puts a hole in your roof, the repairs will be covered. If, however, years of weather have worn down your shingles and your roof springs a leak, you may have to take care of the damage yourself. As always, you should consult your insurance agent to determine how you're covered. It's not always easy to determine which leaks will or will not be covered.
Some perils, such as floods, are typically excluded from home insurance policies. Other hazards may be excluded or subject to lower limits based on the risks associated with your area. If you desire coverage for one of these hazards, you can usually add supplemental coverage to your policy in the form of an optional endorsement.
Hazards typically excluded from home insurance policies
- Earthquakes, landslides and mudslides
- Mold and fungus*
- Damage due to an infestation of animals or insects
- Negligence and general wear and tear
- Settling, cracking or warping of your house's foundation
- Damage caused by your pets
- War or government action
- Smog, rust and corrosion
*While mold and fungus are typically excluded from standard homeowners insurance policies, they will be covered if they are the result of a covered incident. For example, if mold grows in a naturally damp room, you won't be covered unless you've added an optional mold insurance endorsement to your policy. However, if the mold is the result of a covered roof leak, your insurance company should also cover mold remediation, unless you've failed to file a claim for that leak in a timely manner.
How to Find a Roof Leak
Spotting a roof leak as early as possible is critical for minimizing damage to your home and belongings. Unfortunately, it's not always a straightforward process. Since roofs are typically sloped, it's common for water to enter your home at one part of your roof, only to trickle down to another area where the leak becomes apparent. This means that when you notice dripping or water stains on your wall or ceiling, the leak could be coming from a different part of the house.
The first—and sometimes most difficult—step you should take is to find the source of the leak. Check your roof for any probable points of entry, such as a misaligned shingle, a raised nail, cracks near vent pipes, a misplaced gutter or a crack in the base of your chimney.
If you can't identify the point of entry by looking at your roof, try checking your attic. Search the interior for mold or moisture, or look for wet wood on a rainy day. Alternatively, you can spray your roof with a garden hose to locate the leak. While this may seem counterintuitive, doing this on a dry day will allow you to fix the leak at a time when you control the amount of water that can enter your home. If you still can't find any crack or puncture, it may be possible that the source is a plumbing leak.
If you identify a roof leak early, it usually does not require much maintenance to fix. Often, a replaced shingle or rubber sealant will solve the problem. However, if you're uncomfortable doing maintenance on your roof, you should ask a professional to take care of it.
Another risk of not catching a leak early is mold growth and damage. Mold damage can be prohibitively expensive to fix, and it is excluded from most standard home insurance policies. However, if the mold damage is the result of another covered incident, such as a covered roof leak, mold remediation should be covered as well. The most important thing for you to remember is that you must take steps to limit the damage and alert your insurance company as early as possible.
How Much Does a Roof Leak Cost to Fix?
The total cost to repair your leak and any damage it causes depends on the size of the leak, its source and the length of time it exists before you fix it. If you only need to apply a rubber sealant to a leaking vent, your repair could cost under $100. On the other hand, if you need to reshingle a moderately larger section of your roof, the materials and labor may cost $400 to $700. Significant roof repairs, including new shingles, plywood, cement and metal flashing could cost anywhere from $700 to $3,000. Other factors, such as the danger involved with working around and repairing a skylight or chimney, may also affect your total costs.
Except for the most basic leaks, it's best to have a professional assess your damage and recommend repairs. Performing work on your roof can be dangerous, and while you may feel like you're saving money by repairing a leak yourself, you could end up costing yourself far more if your repairs are inadequate and lead to wood rot or mold damage. Additionally, if your insurance company realizes that new damage is the result of work you tried to perform yourself, rather than having a professional do the job, they may claim that you're responsible for the damage and deny your claim.
Should You File a Claim for a Roof Leak
Whether you should file a homeowners insurance claim for a roof leak depends on the significance of the leak, the size of your deductible, and whether you've filed any other claims in the past few years.
Most homeowners insurance policies come with a $500 to $1,000 deductible that you’ll have to pay before you receive any reimbursement from your insurance company. So, if you have a $750 deductible, and the damage will cost only $400 to repair, you wouldn't receive a reimbursement and it makes sense to skip filing a claim.
Additionally, filing a claim may incur a premium increase when you renew your policy, and repeated claims can cause your rate to spike even more significantly. So unless your repair costs are significantly higher than your deductible, it might cost less over the long term to pay for it yourself.
For example, imagine you have a $750 deductible and a leak will cost $1,000 to repair. If you file a claim for this leak, you'll receive $250 in reimbursement from your insurance company after your deductible is applied. However, your insurance company might consider the condition of your house an increased risk and raise your rates by 10% the following year. Depending on how much you currently pay for your home insurance, this increase could end up costing more than $250 over the next couple of years. In particular, if you've already filed a claim in the past few years, filing an additional claim could cause your insurer to increase your rates substantially. If this describes your situation, it would almost certainly be worth paying for such repairs out of pocket.