Too Good to be True: is Every Old Roof a Potential Insurance Claim?
Is every old roof a potential insurance claim? In late June of 2020, I received a call from Stuart Thomas, a Hanover resident. His 19-year-old roof had sprung a leak during a storm earlier in the year and he was looking to get estimates to have his roof replaced.
“I’m on a fixed income,” he said, “so I’d also like to look into financing options if you have them.”
I told him we could figure all that out later and get him on a payment plan that works with his budget if need be, but first, we wanted to inspect his roof. And just as we suspected, Thomas’ roof was littered with signs of recent wind and hail damage.
We showed him the damage and gave him a blank copy of our contract, which allows us to file a claim on his insurance policy to try to get the roof paid for. Mr. Thomas and his wife, Carolyn, didn’t think there was any chance whatsoever that their roof was eligible for an insurance claim but after double- and triple-checking with me that there would be absolutely no charge should the claim be denied, they agreed to let us try.
“But I have to tell you,” warned Mr. Thomas, “this all sounds too good to be true, and I’m very skeptical.” When, two weeks later, we received a $25,000 check with approval for a full roof replacement plus new gutters, downspouts, fascia metal trim, and a new bathroom fan that was damaged from the leak. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas were shocked and thrilled.
They had no idea what they were entitled to under their homeowners’ insurance policy.
Potential Insurance Claim
Every day we get calls from people just like Mr. Thomas looking to pay for a new roof because their current roof is 15, 20, or 25 years old and it’s time to get a new one. Most of these homeowners simply do not know that their roof – in addition to being old and deteriorated – is also damaged by wind, or hail, or wind and hail.
When we perform that initial inspection and find signs of storm damage we tell them that they are eligible for an insurance claim and may not need to pay anything out of pocket other than their deductible (usually $500 – $1,000).
“This sounds too good to be true,” they all say. “You’re the tenth local York roofing contractor I called and the first one to mention insurance. My roof is really old. What’s the scam?” Insurance companies love this misconception! It’s true that age and deterioration are not a covered peril, meaning an old but undamaged roof is not eligible for payment under an insurance policy just because it’s old and it’s time for a new one.
However, storm damage is a covered peril under most homeowners’ policies. If a roof is 15 to 25 years old, it has been through some heavy storms. That means there is a very good chance that the damage is there. It just takes a professional who knows what to look for, how to document it, and how to navigate the claim process.
So, is every old roof a potential insurance claim? No, but every old roof is worth inspecting to see if it has storm damage. The great majority of them do and are therefore eligible even though they may be old.
What to Expect
Unfortunately, the presence of storm damage does not guarantee a full roof replacement is going to be approved. Insurance companies will often only pay for small repairs and patches when they can get away with it.
Sometimes, they will deny hail damage entirely, based on weather data records. If the service they use says there was no hail storm at your location in the last year (which is the typical time limit for filing a claim) then the claim will be thrown out.
Worse yet, some policies have all kinds of “exclusions” and caveats that limit coverage eligibility. For example, exceptionally high wind-and-hail deductibles which make filing a claim prohibitively costly. There’s also something called Roof Surfaces Schedule. It reduces the amount of coverage based on the age of the roof.
This is especially prominent with one carrier in particular (hint: you’re not always in good hands). For the most part, insurance companies want to be fair with their policyholders. We are not out to paint them as villains. However, the truth is that they are in the business of collecting premiums – not paying claims.
They will do what they can to lower their costs, and usually, this goes unchecked because, again, most people do not know what they’re entitled to under their policy.
It helps to have someone on your side during the claims process, to even the playing field. After all, restoring your property to its pre-loss condition is exactly the purpose of homeowners’ insurance. It’s why we pay our premiums, year in and year out.
Companies to Call
RJ D’Angelo is the Operations Manager at JWE Remodeling & Roofing LLC, a Hanover-based roofing contractor serving all of south-central Pennsylvania. RJ is also a licensed public insurance adjuster with the Pennsylvania & Maryland Department of Insurance.
His public adjuster firm, StormScope Public Adjusters & Loss Recovery, represents Hanover policyholders in negotiations with their insurance company for the storm damage claims that JWE and StormScope handle as a team. Once the work is approved, JWE owner Jeff Erb takes over and executes the work.
Jeff has been roofing in Hanover for the past 20 years and has earned JWE a 4.9/5 star rating on Google. You can reach RJ at (717) 524-6964 or Jeff at (717) 640-7131. You can also contact both of them via their shared email, email@example.com. Feel free to stop by their office during business hours: 1060 Baltimore St, Suite R, in Hanover.