You pay a substantial premium for homeowners insurance, so your insurance company should pay out a premium in return when your roof incurs storm damage, right? Unfortunately, that’s not usually the case as all insurance companies have one thing in common:
They like to pay as little money as possible.
This is especially true when it comes to roof damage, which leads homeowners to wonder how to negotiate a roof replacement with insurance to get out what they’ve put in thus far.
Below, we’ll uncover everything you need to know about getting the most out of your homeowners insurance company. That way, you’ll know what to do and what your alternative options are when it comes time to file a roof damage claim.
Can I Negotiate With My Homeowners Insurance Company?
The first thing you need to understand about how to negotiate a replacement out of your insurance is that insurance companies don’t actually negotiate payouts. The payout you receive will depend entirely on the company and the specific policy you have with them — which we’ll get to in just a minute.
Generally speaking, homeowners insurance companies tend to only offer policies that cover roof damage occurring from sudden and unexpected events, such as:
- Storm damage, including hailstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, high winds, and ice damage
- Fires and smoke damage
- Electrical damage
- Falling trees or large debris
- Riot damage from civil unrest
- Vandalism or malicious mischief
- Aircraft damage
While the above events are typically covered up to a certain percentage, the real question is whether your insurance company will cover an entire roof replacement or just repairs — or if they’re willing to cover either.
When Homeowners Insurance Won’t Cover Roof Replacements
The second thing you need to understand about your homeowners insurance is that not only will you not be able to negotiate your payout but there are certain instances where you’ll be denied coverage.
These instances include:
- You have an old roof. If your roof is creeping up to or is surpassing the age of 20, there’s a good chance you’ll get denied coverage for a total roof replacement. This is because older roofing systems are more susceptible to damage, which means even light winds and rain can cause shingle loss and leakage. The age of your roof also leaves a lot of room for the insurance adjuster to determine that the damage was the result of neglect. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t see any money to put towards a new roof, but it does mean that your insurance company can refuse to renew your policy until your roof is repaired or replaced and professionally inspected.
- The damage is cosmetic. If your insurance policy deems that your damages are cosmetic — as in, they’re superficial rather than something that interferes with your roof’s function — they’ll deny your claim. For example, if a large tree branch falls on your roof but all it does is scratch a few slate tiles, you won’t get any reimbursements for repairs. However, if the tree branch fractures and breaks a whole bunch of slate tiles, then they’ll likely cover the cost of repairs.
- The damage was preventable. Roof leaks are often signs of storm damage, especially when they crop up during or immediately after a storm. However, whether or not your insurance company will pay depends entirely on what caused the leak. For example, if the insurance adjuster has determined that the real cause of the leak was due to a pest infestation that weakened the roof decking, then they’ll deny your claim based on a lack of routine maintenance.
- The cause was flooding or an earthquake. Certain weather events are often excluded from homeowners insurance policies — such as floods and earthquakes. An earthquake can easily shake apart your roofing system; however, you would need a supplementary policy (also known as a rider) for that type of coverage. What’s more, if you live in a place that’s prone to certain natural disasters, like tornados, your insurance company may only cover tornado damage if you purchase a specific policy rider for it.
Roof Damage Coverage Types
Exclusions are just one part of your policy that you’ll need to review carefully. You’ll also want to be sure that you understand the type of policy you have to determine whether you have a good chance of getting replacement coverage.
Ultimately, you’ll either have an Actual Cash Value (ACV) policy or a Replace Cost Value (RCV) policy. Each type of policy offers a payout, but the amount will vary significantly.
- Actual Cash Value policy: With an ACV policy, the company will only be obligated to match the value of your current roof. This means as your current roof depreciates in value, so does your payout — which also means that there likely won’t be enough to cover the cost of a full replacement.
- Replacement Cost Value policy: With an RCV policy, the company is obligated to give you a payout that covers the cost of a full roof replacement — minus any recoverable depreciation. In simple terms, this means that your insurance company will cut you a check for your roof’s current cash value first and then a check for the depreciation after the job has been completed. This is generally to ensure that you’re spending the money on an actual roof replacement and not using it to commit insurance fraud, which means you’ll need to provide proof of the work and its progress in order to get a second check.
It’s important to keep in mind that neither policy payout will cover 100% of your roof replacement costs. This is obvious with the ACV policy, but with the RCV policy, your insurance will only pay to restore your roof to the newest version of itself. Therefore, if you choose to upgrade from 3-tab asphalt shingles to architectural shingles, you can expect to pay the difference out of pocket.
The Best Way to File a Roof Insurance Claim
Since you cannot negotiate roof replacement payouts with your insurance company, the only alternative to getting what you need is by filing the claim correctly — and with the support of your roofing contractor.
Bearing in mind that you know what your insurance policy covers, here’s how it’s done:
- Assess the damage. The first thing you want to do after a major storm or sudden accident is take a look at the damage yourself. Take a walk around your property to get different vantage points of your roof and look for missing shingles, broken shingles, dents, holes, and so on. Be sure to document everything and take note of the condition of your gutters and siding as well.
- Call a reliable roofing contractor. Most professional roofing contractors offer free roof inspections after a major storm. Aside from the fact that it’s not a good idea for you to climb up on the roof yourself, roofing contractors are trained to assess the damage and write detailed reports. They’ll be able to uncover the damages that you can’t, and they’ll also be able to discern whether it’s storm damage or not. They’ll also provide you with an accurate estimate for the work.
- File the claim. Fill out your roof insurance claim in detail according to your roofer’s report. You’ll want to include their report (if applicable) as well as clear photos of the damage. From there, an insurance adjuster will come to your home to inspect the damages and determine if your claim is valid.
There are also a few important things to keep in mind during the insurance claims process:
- Insurance adjusters are the only individuals that can approve your damage claim.
- If the adjuster denies your claim for any reason, you can request another adjuster from most insurance companies, or you can hire a public adjuster for a second opinion.
- If possible, you’ll want a reputable roofing contractor to meet with the insurance adjuster to ensure they don’t make any mistakes. Your roofer can support you this way by backing your claim and their report, which can help encourage the adjuster to make the right decision in approving the replacement cost.
- If the roof replacement claim is still denied due to a mistake or despite there being ample evidence that the damage to your roof was caused by recent storms, you can pursue legal action using an insurance claim dispute attorney. This may lead to a larger settlement than your insurance company would have been willing to pay out in the first place.
Are You in Need of a Roof Replacement?
You can’t haggle with your insurance company to completely replace your roof, but you can comb through your policy to see what you’re in for. You can also find a roofing contractor that will support you through the claims process.
While the professionals at First American Roofing cannot file your claim for you or guarantee it’ll be approved, they can offer you insurance claim guidance for the best possible outcome. We also offer some of the best warranties in the roofing industry, which means your investment will be protected for years to come.
Get in touch with us today to schedule your free roofing inspection or to learn more about our roof storm damage services.