If you have a leak anywhere in your roof, including your chimney, homeowners insurance should cover any damage inside your house. Getting insurance to fix a leaky chimney, however, may be a long shot. Even if you have a valid claim, you may be better off not filing it if the cost of repairs is small.
If water leaks through your chimney and rusts your fireplace irons or floods into your living room, the interior damage is covered. Document the damage with photos or written records and do your best to prevent more damage: dry out the carpets, move furniture away from the water and plug up the flow if the water's still coming in. Your insurer's unlikely to increase your claims check if you just let the water keep ruining your stuff.
If your chimney leaks because of a storm or because a tree blew against it, your insurance may cover the cost of repairs. You're out of luck if it's just old and worn out -- insurance pays for repairs due to sudden events, not deterioration over time. Some insurers will periodically check your roof for aging and weak spots, including around the chimney. If the inspection turns up a vulnerable point, the insurer may tell you that you have to fix it if you want to keep your policy.
If the leak is severe and it stems from sudden damage, you don't have to wait on your insurer's OK to take care of it. Contact your insurer, then go ahead and look for a professional to fix your chimney. Get photos or other records of the original damage, and keep all receipts and contact information for whoever you hire, so you can present the insurance adjuster with proof of your expenses.
If you think the damage is less or only slightly more than your deductible, you may be better off not calling your insurer. Insurers don't just cancel policies for clients who make big claims -- a string of several minor claims can deep-six your coverage just as effectively. Even inquiring about a claim can hurt you. The industry maintains a database tracking claims so if one company drops you, other insurers also know you're a potential money-loser for them.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.