Homeowner's insurance doesn't always pay to repair a leaky roof. Even if the insurer refuses to fix the roof, though, interior damage from the leak may be covered.
If your roof is ruined by a covered peril — something your homeowner's policy protects against — then your insurer will pay for repairs. Most policies, for example, cover damage to the roof from wind or a fallen tree.
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A roof that leaks due to wear and tear is different. Homeowner's insurance doesn't pay for damage to your roof — or any other part of your house — caused by inevitable aging. Nor does insurance pay for maintenance to keep your house in working order. If you neglect to keep your roof in good shape, your insurer won't pay to fix it.
A leaking roof also affects the area under the leak, potentially ruining furniture, flooding floors and destroying carpet. The good news is that even if the leak was due to aging, interior damage is usually covered.
Most homeowner policies exclude flood damage. However this exclusion applies to rising waters, such as a flooding river, not to flooding from rain entering the house.
Once you discover the leak, you need to take steps to minimize the damage. Depending on the situation this may be as simple as placing something under the leak to catch the water, or covering the leak with a tarpaulin to keep water out. If you ignore the leak, the insurer probably won't pay for damage you could have prevented.
Some insurance policies offer less coverage and insure against fewer perils than the standard Homeowners policy. If you have a lower level of coverage, damage to the roof may not be covered.
Polices in some areas specifically exclude windstorm damage because insurers consider the risk of claims from tornadoes or hurricanes too great. A hurricane exclusion may apply to damage from the rain as well. If, say, you're in a coastal area of Florida, you may have to buy your coverage from the state's insurance pool, at a higher price.
If the insurer inspects your house and recommends you repair the roof, the insurer may refuse to cover damage if you don't act on the recommendation.
Filing a Claim
If the damage is minor, you may be better off not filing a claim. Even if your insurer denies your claim, it may hike your rates for reporting the problem. The MarketWatch website reports that it's a particularly bad idea to file if you're not going to exceed your deductible, as you won't see any money anyway.
If you do decide to file, call your insurer promptly. The company will send an adjuster out to assess the damage. You can speed things up by itemizing the damage and keeping good records of anything you've had to throw away or replace already. Photographing or videotaping the damage or the leak can help a lot.