Has a natural disaster or other catastrophic event damaged the roof of your home or commercial property? If so, your property insurance policy should pay for any repairs or replacements necessary to restore your roof. This includes things like replacing your shingles, repairing gutter damage, and even replacing your entire roof if the damage is extensive.
This work can quickly become expensive, and insurance providers are often reluctant to pay for it, even when the underlying claim is legitimate. Many property owners are surprised and frustrated when the coverage they counted on for rainy days will not pay for their losses per the terms of their insurance policies, the premiums for which they dutifully pay every month.
By understanding the process for filing a roof damage claim and understanding the potential issues that may arise from it, you give yourself the best chance of a settlement that pays the full amount you need. Continue reading to find out how to file a roof damage claim and what to watch out for as you go through the process.
Common Types and Causes of Damage to Roofs
A solid roof is a property’s first line of defense against elemental hazards, which means the average roof sees lots of wear and tear throughout its lifetime.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common types and causes of roof damage in the U.S.:
- Wind damage: Strong winds from tornadoes, hurricanes, and other extreme weather events can rip off shingles, destroy gutters, and even tear entire roofs off the tops of homes or commercial properties.
- Fire damage: The flames caused by household accidents, lightning strikes, or wildfires can burn through wooden frames and shingles, severely impairing the roof’s structural integrity.
- Water damage: Hurricanes, tropical storms, and even regular rainfall wear away roof structures and contribute to water intrusion, leading to rotted roof frames, warped structures, and mold damage.
- Hail damage: Most roofs easily hold up to light hail, but the larger the hailstones, the greater the risk of catastrophic roof damage. Hail that is pea-sized or larger can ruin roof shingles, tiles, skylights, and solar arrays.
- Snow damage: Snow weighs about 20 pounds per cubic foot. When it accumulates over a long winter, it can strain even the sturdiest roofs, sometimes contributing to dangerous sagging or even collapses. Melting snow can also lead to water intrusion that causes additional damage.
- Other damage: Natural catastrophes like earthquakes and sinkholes can damage building structures, potentially leading to roof collapse. Some roof damage also occurs due to criminal activity, such as home invasions.
Filing an Insurance Claim for Roof Damage
Damage to your roof can destroy not only your home or property but everything inside it as well. Even a relatively small roof leak can lead to rotted wood framing, ruined foundations, and other structural damage caused by water intrusion. In severe cases, extensive damage may even prove beyond repair, forcing you to consider a complete re-roof to the tune of several thousand dollars.
If you’re like most property owners, you don’t have thousands of dollars just lying around at any given moment. When catastrophic damage impacts your roof, you will likely need some help paying for repair or replacement projects. That’s where your property insurance policy comes in, whether it’s a homeowners’ or commercial policy. When the system works as it should, you need only file a claim, present your evidence, and then collect the benefits you need to restore your property. After all, you pay for these benefits through the premiums on your policy.
Unfortunately, the system does not always function as it should. Many property owners are shocked and frustrated by insurance providers’ unwillingness to abide by the terms of their policies in times of need. Countless roof damage insurance claims are undervalued or rejected yearly based on minor errors and filing inconsistencies. Understanding how to file your roof damage claim correctly is key to obtaining full and fair compensation.
Below, we explore the process of filing a property insurance claim for roof damage and what you can expect each step of the way:
Informing Your Insurance Carrier
Most insurance policies specify that policyholders must notify the insurer within a specific time frame following a covered property damage event. Failure to comply with the terms of your policy agreement could give the insurance company an excuse to deny your claim. It’s wise to report roof damage to your providers as soon as possible, even if you are not sure a given policy will cover the damage.
Contacting the Authorities, if Needed
In some cases, criminal activity like a home invasion or vandalism causes property damage. If you know or suspect another party intentionally destroyed your roof, you should report the damage to the local police. A police report could be essential evidence in a claim for crime-related roof damage, so be sure to request a copy from any officers with whom you discuss the case.
Reading Through the Policy Agreement
Obtain a copy of the insurance policy agreement covering the property and review it closely. If more than one policy may cover the damage to your roof, get copies of each and read through them to determine the full extent of your coverage. Some policies require you to take specific steps when you file a claim, so you must understand these provisions and follow them carefully.
If the particular language or any requirements in your policy confuse you, ask a public insurance adjuster or a knowledgeable lawyer for clarification. When your property’s roof is at stake, you don’t want your insurance claim denied for avoidable mistakes.
Thoroughly Accounting for Roof Damage
You will need to examine the damage to your roof, related structural damage, and related damage to any personal property affected by roof collapse, leaks, flooding, or water intrusion. Keep a thorough inventory of all damaged property. Take photos or videos of each piece of damaged property and write down every affected item on a dedicated list or spreadsheet.
Place the images, property damage inventory, and any physical evidence from the roof damage incident in a secure location for safekeeping. Your insurance provider will have difficulty denying coverage if you have meticulous documentation to support your roof damage claim.
Completing Temporary Repairs
You should refrain from initiating large-scale repairs or roof replacement projects until an insurance adjuster has inspected the damage. That being said, many property owners with roof damage must take some steps to prevent an already significant problem from worsening.
Suppose a lightning strike left a massive hole in your roof during a relentless storm, allowing rainwater to pour in and flood the property. You might need to put a tarp over the hole to reduce the risk of additional roof damage while awaiting repairs. In fact, most property insurance policies require you to take reasonable steps to mitigate damage in such circumstances.
Failure to do so could be grounds for denial of a roof damage claim. If you do complete temporary repairs, take care to save receipts from out-of-pocket purchases, as well as any debris you remove from the roof.
Filling out Insurance Claim Paperwork
When you are ready to initiate your claim, you will need to complete forms and other paperwork as required by the insurance company. Many providers expect claimants to provide a Sworn Proof of Loss (SPOL), a notarized form documenting all of the property damage for which they seek compensation.
If you own a commercial property and roof damage has impacted your business operations, you may need to file specialized claims to seek reimbursement for lost revenue. A roof damage lawyer can help you identify critical filing requirements and prepare error-free claim paperwork on your behalf.
Cooperating with the Investigation
After you have submitted the appropriate paperwork, your provider will assign an insurance adjuster to your claim. Adjusters are responsible for investigating and making claim determinations, so expect to work with the adjuster as necessary.
The adjuster will review the documentation and evidence you presented with your roof damage claim and may visit your property to evaluate the roof damage firsthand. Be careful of what you say anytime you are around the adjuster, as their job is to save their employer money, and they will listen closely for any reason to reduce or deny your claim.
Obtaining Multiple Repair Estimates
Before the insurance adjuster approves any repair or replacement work for your roof, they will expect you to provide at least two different estimates of the total cost. If the adjuster decides the quotes you present are unacceptable, they may insist on a second opinion from a preferred repair professional.
You may be responsible for covering the upfront costs of your roof repairs or replacement, even if your provider approves your claim, in which case the provider would reimburse you once the repair professional finishes repairs.
Participating in Claim Settlement Talks
Most roofing companies and contractors bill the insurance company directly once they complete repairs or replacements. If you paid any expenses out of pocket, however, you may need to seek compensation from the insurance company.
Similarly, if the insurance company refuses to cover a portion of the cost, you may need to negotiate for full coverage of your claim. This is where an experienced attorney is particularly valuable, as they know what tactics insurers employ to reduce their liability and how to counteract them.
Taking Your Insurance Provider to Court
If the insurance company does not approve your roof damage claim despite repeated attempts to negotiate a fair settlement, your attorney may recommend taking your case to court. In many cases, settlement talks will continue behind the scenes as everyone prepares for trial, and most claims are resolved well before the court reaches its verdict. However, if the court does render a verdict, all parties involved are legally bound to abide by the decision, though they can appeal to a higher court.
Roof repairs are among the most extensive and costly property renovation projects, and insurance providers are often reluctant to cover such high-dollar claims. If you are seeking compensation from an insurance company that has delayed, minimized, or denied your roof damage claim, you should contact an experienced property damage lawyer as soon as possible. Many offer inexpensive or even free initial consultations during which they will review your case and answer any questions you might have.
How Can a Roof Damage Lawyer Help Me?
The roof is one of the most critical components of any building, and roof damage can quickly lead to further damage to the structure and the personal property within it. When property damage is this extensive, it pays to have a knowledgeable roof damage lawyer to defend your rights and pursue the fair compensation you deserve.
An experienced roof damage lawyer could help you by:
- Examining any insurance policies that may apply to your roof damage claim to identify the types and extent of available coverage
- Conducting an independent investigation into the roof damage event to determine what caused the damage and which parties are liable for repairs
- Working with roofing companies, property appraisers, and real estate experts to calculate a reasonable estimate for any damage to your real and personal property
Obtaining copies of the relevant insurance policies, property damage reports, repair estimates, witness statements, and other documentation for your claim
- Managing administrative details for your claim, such as meeting filing deadlines and fulfilling evidentiary requirements on your behalf
- Communicating with insurance companies, property associations, corporate attorneys, and any other parties of interest on your behalf
- Filing the paperwork for your claim and representing you during negotiations to maximize the value of your settlement
- Filing a lawsuit and taking your insurance provider to court for unjustified denials or delays of your claim, if necessary
Always hire a lawyer to assist you with a roof damage claim. With so much at stake, you need a knowledgeable professional on your side.