Your roof is the front line of attack against the elements. Wind is probably the biggest adversary of your roof, but there are other enemies including electrical fires, falling limbs, heavy snowfall, moisture intrusions, and damage caused by pests such as squirrels which can scratch their way into your attic and take up residence!
The good thing is, if you’re a homeowner you probably have homeowners insurance. If you’re covered, it’s because you were approved for a policy at one time. Insurance companies are very strict when it comes to insuring you and, at the same time, keeping their risk minimal. They’re not going to issue a policy on a house with an old worn-out roof. Insurance companies consider your roof to be one of the most critical aspects of an insurable property. Roofs that are 15 or 20 years old might disqualify you from buying or renewing a policy. Whatever the case, this article assumes you have coverage and now you need to pursue a claim.
A Note About Warranties
Warranties differ from insurance. A warranty normally comes with the products or service you buy. It’s often built into the cost, while an extended warranty might be sold separately. Warranties usually cover defects and abnormal wear, so they typically do not cover the cost of repair or replacement if your roof issues were caused by high winds, hail, fire, lightning, earthquakes, negligent acts or structural faults. Whether you bought a full-system warranty, a labor-only warranty or you have a materials-only warranty from a previous roof replacement job, none of these will do you much good and that’s why homeowners insurance is necessary.
When damage occurs and you need to file a claim with your insurer, do it as soon as possible, especially if the damage was caused by a catastrophic storm, in which case potentially thousands of other people will be filing claims, so you’ll want to get yours in ahead of others.
Steps to Filing an Insurance Claim
1. Find a Good Roofing Contractor
If you don’t already have a roofing contractor in mind, find one that’s local and licensed. Some states require certification for roofing companies. If you live in such a state, make sure you select one of those reputable companies. If you don’t, it will complicate the claims process! If you select a contractor which utilizes roofing software, it will enhance your overall experience, as you can photograph areas of your damaged property ahead of time and send them to the contractor who in turn can move the images right into your project profile. He can store your insurance information for quick access. You can electronically share helpful blueprints of your home with him too, if available. Plus, fewer visits to your home will be required because your tech-savvy contractor can perform measurements from aerial and satellite imagery. Damage you might have overlooked can be detected from overhead images of your home. Software-equipped contractors can survey your home remotely and even examine high-resolution imagery with features like Clearoof™ aerial imagery available on the iRoofing app.
2. Get Your Roof Inspected
Next, get the contractor to come inspect your roof to confirm and document the damage. They will take plenty of photographs in order to “build a case” for proper repairs of your roof.
3. Make Temporary Fixes, Then Start the Filing a Claim
Ask your roofer to make temporary repairs to your home, if needed, in order to protect from further damage. It is the responsibility of the homeowner to do this, but you should save the receipts for supplies so that you can turn them in for reimbursement by your insurance company, later. It’s always a good step to get a contractor to do a preliminary inspection because it will also validate what the insurance adjuster finds. The contractor may have already submitted paperwork to your insurance provider on your behalf, but if not, they can submit it at this time.
4. Schedule Visit by an Insurance Adjuster
Once your roofing contractor confirms the damage, contact your insurance company. Within a few days, the adjuster should come out to your property. Let your contractor know when the adjuster is scheduled to visit your property to do the inspection. Your contractor may wish to meet you and the adjuster at that time. If necessary, encourage your contractor to be there. It is very important that they are present to point out areas of damage and concern.
5. Take Notes. Ask Questions!
While the adjuster is with you, take down a few notes, including the adjuster’s name, the date and time of the visit, and the claim number. This makes it more convenient and faster for you and the insurance company to communicate details about your claim moving forward. Also, don’t be afraid to ask a few questions…
- “Is the damage described covered under the terms of my policy?”
- “How long do I have to file a claim?”
- “How long will it take to process the claim?”
- “Do I need to obtain estimates for repairs?”
6. Understand All the Details of the Job.
After the adjuster inspects your property, the insurance company will approve whatever roof work is needed while your contractor works with the insurance company to be sure the scope of work is understood by all.
7. Insurance Repair Estimate.
The insurance company will issue a repair estimate and the funds which will be needed to cover the repairs or roof replacement.
8. The Job Begins...
Your roofing contractor will set the time-frame for work to begin and will order the materials necessary. These materials will arrive at your property prior to the start of the project. Your contractor will be responsible for completing the work according to the agreed-upon schedule they set with you and the insurance company.
9. How Payments Work.
Usually, the roofing contractor is paid once the work is completed. If you hold a mortgage on your home, the insurance company’s settlement check will usually be made out to you and the mortgage lender. Mortgage lenders therefore have equal rights to the insurance check. They do this in order to ensure that the necessary repairs are made to the property. After all, your mortgage company has a financial interest in your home. Therefore, the mortgage company or bank will have to endorse the check. Lenders generally put the money in an escrow account and pay for the repairs as the work is completed.
10. What About Extra Expenses?
Next, the contractor will invoice your insurer for any additional supplemental funds owed for the work they completed on your behalf. You will receive these funds from your insurance company and they will be paid by you to your contractor.
11. Your Mortgage Company Takes a Look.
It’s possible that your mortgage company will come to inspect the work after it’s done.
Final Things to Note...
Roofing contractors only have influence over the assessment and cost estimate of damages. They do not have any say-so in insurance policy matters. If there is a gripe over the insurance coverage, it’s a matter that the adjuster and the homeowner need to work through.
Overall, your roofing contractor, as well as your insurance company, want your new roof to be the highest quality it can be and the insurance coverage should reflect that. The last thing the insurance company wants is to pay out another claim next time there’s a severe weather event. The same goes for your reputable contractor who promises to stand behind their workmanship.
Incidentally, if you own your home and no longer carry a mortgage balance, you might have elected to forego homeowners’ insurance. Nevertheless, if your roof was damaged due to a catastrophe, you might still be able to file a claim by registering for Federal Disaster Relief at DisasterAssistance.gov. Federal assistance can help with temporary housing, home repairs, and other disaster-related expenses.
Finally, be on the lookout for scams following any natural catastrophe. It’s hard to believe that some people seek to take advantage of homeowners during difficult times, but it happens. Don’t deal with anyone who comes to your door offering to do repairs or claiming to be insurance adjusters.