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Why Insurance Won’t Cover Some Roof Claims

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Reviewed byJoel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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Agents all across America deal with this situation on a regular basis. There tends to be some confusion on the matter, so let’s talk about some basic insurance principals to get a handle on the topic.

Keep in mind; every insurance claim includes individual details and circumstances that make it nearly impossible to render a single judgment on the subject.

Insurance Coverage Does Not Equal a Warranty

When it comes to all types of insurance, whether property, casualty, or health (life insurance is almost inarguable from a claim standpoint), there are certain things that are not covered, as they are considered maintenance rather than actual losses. This is where most of the confusion lies.

For example, an insurance company will not pay for new wiper blades or tires for your car because these items are designed to wear out over time.

Additionally, you cannot expect an insurance company to pay for your car’s motor ceasing as a result of not changing the oil.

These are all maintenance items the property owner needs to take care of to ensure the vehicle stays on the road. An agreement from an organization to fix, or pay to replace those items, is a warranty.

Insurance premiums would be unaffordable if insurers agreed to repair or replace any item that was damaged regardless of the cause.

Insurance is designed to pay for damages that occur during one, measurable event at one time.

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What About My Roof?

When it comes to your roof, similar to car tires and oil changes, your insurer expects you to cover the costs to maintain it. Roofs have what is referred to as a functional life, which is the amount of time (which varies greatly by its construction materials and where you live) it should last under “normal” circumstances.

If your roof is older or has been exposed to hail, you can certainly expect to have to replace shingles, if not the whole roof, in order to keep it from leaking or collapsing. It is part of the “hidden” costs of homeownership.

You will be out of luck if you call your insurance company and file an insurance claim to have minor repairs done to your roof unless they are a result of a documented windstorm.

(Why is a wind deductible higher than a regular deductible?)

Keep in mind too, that insurers are generally protected from minor property damage claims by requiring a deductible on your policy for property damage claims. Typically, insurers require at least a 1% deductible when it comes to areas where tornadoes, wind and hail damage are frequent. You would be hard pressed to exceed your policy’s deductible to have a few shingles replaced on your roof.

One example of a claim that is usually denied along these lines is water damage resulting from “wind driven rain.” You will likely be denied coverage for water damage resulting from rainwater that’s pushed under shingles (by strong winds) if you have an old, leaky roof.

On the other hand, if a nasty wind or hail storm destroys part or your entire roof in one particular event, your insurance company would likely pay to repair or replace it (assuming that coverage is not excluded in your homeowner’s insurance policy language).

Roof Exclusions

Some insurance companies go as far as excluding roof coverage all together if a home’s roof has not been repaired or replaced within a certain time frame in a particular geographic area (15 years for example). They are not interested in trading you one year’s premium for a $10,000 roof we all know is going to blow off the house in the next serious storm.

Additionally, some insurers will only offer actual cash value coverage (versus replacement cost) on a roof over a certain age – even when the structure itself is insured for replacement cost. If your roof is 20 years old, they’ll give you the money for its value at the time of loss rather than enough money to replace it completely.

(Top 10 homeowners insurance companies.)

Some individuals opt for the ACV roof coverage as a way to lessen their overall insurance premium. Agents do not recommend opting for this coverage restriction unless you have enough money on hand to replace the roof in the event of a total loss…but if you have that kind of money laying around you should just pay for the coverage!

Insurers also offer potentially HUGE discounts for homes that have hail resistant roofs installed on them, so be sure to ask your agent about that discount if you coughed up the money for an indestructible roof on your home.

For the record, your home’s foundation falls into the same category (foundation insurance). It is normal for homes to settle and cracks in a basement or foundation or sinking of piers (if pier and beam) to appear over time, if not immediately after being built.

Contact your insurer or independent agent to determine your exact coverage for your roof and foundation on your current policy.

Read more: Losses that aren’t typically covered by a homeowner’s insurance policy.

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