Many homeowners who have been through the nightmare of having to deal with the roof damage and trying to get their claim approved by the insurance company will agree: sometimes, it can be very difficult to get a claim paid.
So, how do you get your insurance company to pay for a roof replacement? The answer involves a combination of information, preparation, documentation and hiring a professional roofer to work on your behalf.
Understand Your Insurance Coverage
Knowledge is power. Don’t let your insurance company tell you what’s covered and what isn’t.
Most of us don’t read the fine print of the policy until something goes wrong. Now is the time to do that. If you don’t have a copy of the policy, a common problem, request one from your agent. A paper copy or electronic file should be made available promptly.
In most states, there are two types of coverage: Repair coverage and replacement coverage.
Replacement policies are more common, though they do cost more. Replacement coverage provides for returning the roof to a brand new condition when an event that is covered by the insurance policy takes place.
Repair coverage usually takes into consideration depreciation of the roof. This means you will get a percentage of the replacement cost based on the roof’s material and age. It could be as low as 15% for a roof near the end of its service life.
Read your policy carefully. If the language is confusing, ask questions.
We recommend you talk to:
- Your agent – if you have a good relationship with the person and trust them, they should be able to honestly and clearly explain your coverage. That’s their job.
- A roofing contractor with good experience dealing with insurance claims. Call two or three pros, tell them your issue, and ask for some advice.
Many roofers will offer a fair evaluation of your policy because they understand that giving homeowners a few minutes of their time is a proven way to get more business.
Step 1. Find a Reputable Roofing Contractor
If you didn’t do this as part of the step above, now is the time.
Your best ally in a fight over roof repair (if it comes to that) will be a licensed roofing contractor, not an attorney. Make sure they have:
- A stellar reputation
- Experience dealing with insurance claims
A good roofer will help with the next few steps before repairing the roof.
Prevent Further Damage!
Most homeowner’s policies require you to cover the damaged roof immediately.
Did you know? Claims for secondary damage are usually denied when the necessary steps have not been taken to protect the roof.
Here’s a common and unfortunate scenario:
Storm 1 blows a bunch of shingles off a roof.
Storm 2, a week later, brings wind-driven rain that gets into the unprotected home and destroys everything it touches – ceilings, walls, flooring, electronics and more. This is why many homes must be gutted or demolished after hurricanes.
Bad storms damage hundreds or thousands of homes in their path. This makes it impossible for roofers to make quick repairs.
Instead, your roofing company will get the damaged areas tarped and secured to protect your home and your wallet. Once this is done, the roof should be OK until repairs can be made.
Step 2. File a Claim with your Homeowner’s Insurance within 30 Days!
Most states require a homeowner to make a claim within 30-60 days. Failure to make a timely claim is reason for claim denial.
When there is a high volume of claims, the earlier you file the paperwork, the sooner you will get your claim processed.
Step 3. Have the Roof Independently Inspected & Document the Damage
We’re going to sound a little cynical, but we prefer to think of it as being a wise homeowner.
According to one experienced roofing contractor, “Insurance companies heavily scrutinize claims for roof repair and replacement. They will want absolute proof that storm damage is the cause of the roof leak.”
To determine this, insurance company will send out its own adjuster – someone that works for the insurance company. If the storm damage is widespread, “independent inspectors” are brought in to handle the load of claims.
However, they’re hired and paid by the insurance company, too. That’s a strong motivation to find results favorable to the insurance company – reasons why your claim isn’t legitimate and shouldn’t be paid.
What reasons might they find? Common reasons for denying a roofing insurance claim are:
- The roof wasn’t installed properly, so it is the roofer’s fault. This is the most common reason, and the next reason is the second most used excuse.
- The roofing material is faulty, so it is the manufacturer’s fault.
- The roof wasn’t maintained (loose flashing or a cracked vent boot were found, for example, that allowed water through). So it’s the homeowner’s fault.
- The attic isn’t properly vented, so the shingles were cupped and susceptible to wind. It’s the builder’s fault.
- The damage is only cosmetic. The roof will still protect the home.
- The roof is just old.
In all of these scenarios, the result is the same: Claim denied!
This is where an inspection from a roofing contractor that you are paying is essential.
What a roofer should document for you:
- That roofing materials on the undamaged part of the roof are correctly installed and not defective – so the issue isn’t with installation or materials.
- Anything else that goes against the common reasons for denying claims just listed – the rest of the roof is in good condition, the attic is properly vented, the damage is more than just cosmetic, and so forth.
Step 4. Get a Detailed Report from an Independent Roofing Contractor
Ask for a written evaluation from the roofing contractor that addresses the issues listed above – The extent and cause of the damage and the condition of the rest of the roof.
The inspection and report will cost up to $500, but it is money well spent if it is instrumental in getting your homeowner’s insurance claim paid.
If it comes to arbitration or court, it will be the word of an inspector against a roofer. If your roofing contractor’s report is credible, you will be in good shape.
Don’t Settle for an Inferior Roof
This takes a little explaining, but it should be clear in the end.
When an insurer accepts a claim, it offers the homeowner a chunk of money.
It should be enough to replace your roof with materials of the same quality as the original roof including professional installation.
Here’s the warning: It is the common practice of some insurance adjusters to offer a settlement that will only pay for inferior replacement materials.
Let’s say your home has dimensional shingles, which is the most common type of asphalt shingles. Well, dimensional shingles come in basic, better and best quality.
Take CertainTeed shingles, for example. The brand is one of the largest manufacturer of dimensional asphalt roofing shingles.
Here are three lines of shingles that serve as an example:
- CertainTeed Landmark shingles cost $.88 per square foot and last 15-20 years.
- CertainTeed Landmark Premium shingles cost $1.50 per square foot and last 18-22 years.
- CertainTeed Grand Manor shingles cost $2.20 per square foot and last up to 30 years.
Thousands of dollars and years of durability are at stake when you consider the average 2,000 square foot ranch has about 2,400 square feet of roof surface, plus accessories such as chimney flashing, roofing felt, moisture barrier and ridge vent we haven’t discussed.
Hire a Roofer that Will Fight for You
If the insurance company’s offer won’t pay for a replacement roof of the same quality, a good contractor will be your advocate. They will contact your insurer and press for more money to do the job right.
This happens frequently, and it is often successful. No insurance company wants area contractors spreading the word that it won’t take care of its customers.
Be Willing to Change Companies
It rarely come to this, especially if you’ve followed the advice given here. However, sometimes an insurance company offers an unfair settlement and just won’t budge.
This is when you should calculate how much you’ve paid the company in insurance premiums over the years. Most homeowners bundle their insurance – home, vehicle, boat, liability and other forms of insurance with the same company. This often adds up to $7,500 or more per year in premiums.
Do the math on how much you’ve paid since you’ve been with the insurer vs. the cost of the claims you’ve made. For many homeowners, it is 5 to 1 or more in terms of premiums paid vs. claims. Share your findings with the agent.
A common result might be, “We’ve paid $40,000 in premiums over the last 8 years and had one claim for $5,500 for vehicle damage. Are you really going to lose our business by giving us $12,000 for roof repair when we need $16,000 to do it properly?”
Threaten to leave, and then change companies once the claim has been resolved if you feel you’ve been cheated. Leaving won’t help you on the current claim, of course, but it might make the insurer more responsive to customer claims.
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Preparing for Future Claims
Having to file a claim is a wake-up call to any homeowner and a learning lesson for the future. Here’s what we suggest, going forward:
1. Have your roof inspected regularly. Maintain it and make repairs as needed.
If you can show that you kept your roof in good condition, and suddenly it’s a mess after a storm, you’ll have a strong case.
Ask the inspector to document the condition of your roof with pictures and a written, signed evaluation of the roof’s condition. Here’s an inspection schedule:
Asphalt shingles: Yearly, once the roof is 5 years old.
Wood shingles and shakes: Every 2-3 years after they are 10 years old.
Clay and concrete tiles: Every 2-3 years after they are 10 years old.
Metal Roofs and Composite shingles: Every 2 years after 15 years.
2. When a major storm is coming, document the roof’s condition before and after.
If a tropical storm, hail, hurricane or heavy tornado season are forecast, have your roof inspected. Its condition should be documented. Before and after pictures are the best evidence when making roof insurance claims.
If there isn’t time to have a roofer out to do the inspection, take pictures yourself if possible.
The bottom line: Whether or not you’ve had a hassle getting your insurance company to give you a fair settlement, following these tips might get your insurance company to pay for roof replacement if a future claim is necessary.
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