The question of whether roof leaks are covered by homeowners insurance can be answered in two words: it depends. What it depends on most is what caused the leak in the first place.
Roofs can leak for a variety of reasons. They can simply deteriorate and wear out over time. They can be improperly installed or inadequately maintained. They can be struck by lightning, damaged by violent winds, pounded by hail, compromised by a heavy load of snow and ice, or perforated by falling tree limbs. They can be burned by a firecracker thrown by a careless neighbor, or vandalized by delinquents.
Are Roof Leaks Covered by Homeowners Insurance?
Generally speaking, sudden events that damage a well-maintained roof and that lead to leaks will be covered by homeowners insurance. Leaks due to more gradual events, such as age, rot, normal wear and tear, and inadequate maintenance are generally not covered.
There are some exceptions to these general principles. For example, unless the homeowner purchases special flood insurance, damage to a roof caused by flooding is not covered. Similarly, most homeowners insurance policies exclude damage caused by earthquakes, unless that coverage is purchased separately. And intentional damage to the roof by the homeowner is not covered at all.
What Kinds of Losses Caused by Roof Leaks Are Covered by Homeowners Insurance?
Even if a roof leak is covered by insurance, it’s important to understand what kinds of losses an insurer will and will not cover. This question, too, can be answered “it depends.” In this case, it depends on the terms of the insurance policy and what it includes and excludes.
Many insurance policies cover the full repair or replacement cost of damaged roofs, provided that the roof is less than ten years old. For older roofs, many insurance companies will compensate the homeowner only for the roof’s depreciated value. Roof leaks, regardless of cause, can sometimes cause mold to grow inside the house. Many insurance policies now specifically exclude coverage for mold remediation, leaving the homeowner to foot the bill for that work.
When roofs leak, the water often damages the interior of the house and the furniture, appliances, systems, carpeting, and personal property inside. If the leak was caused by an insurable event – something that was sudden and accidental – then damage to the interior of the house and its contents will likely be covered.
Homeowners insurance policies vary tremendously by the laws of the state where the insured property is located, by their exclusions and terms, and by their deductibles. The very best way to understand what is and is not covered is to read the policy and ask careful questions. Generally speaking, though, the easier it is for a homeowner to show that a leaking roof had been properly maintained and that he or she took reasonable precautions to prevent damage and decay, the greater the chances are that damages caused by sudden, accidental roof leaks will be covered. To make sure you've got the very best coverage for yourself and everyone under your roof, check out our Top 10 homeowners insurance companies.