If a windstorm blows a few shingles off your roof, the cost of repairs is usually not too bad. Hailstorms can significantly harm your roof, causing thousands of dollars in damages. If your roof collapses, the cost of repairs goes up exponentially. Windstorms and hail are covered events in all types of homeowners insurance policies, but a roof collapse is a bit more complex. Whether you're covered depends on what caused the collapse.
Your definition of a collapsed roof is not always the same as your insurance company's definition. As with many terms, you must wade through a certain amount of legalese, and in some cases there's no clear-cut definition. Some courts have held that a collapse must involve the roof caving in or falling down, while others have required that the home must be rendered unfit for habitation. When in doubt, it's best to consult with your insurance agent to determine exactly what your policy considers a collapse to be.
Collapse From Ice and Snow
All types of homeowners insurance policies, except HO-1 and HO-8 policies, specifically cover loss caused by the weight of ice and snow. This is important in determining the type of policy to buy, particularly if you live in a region that gets significant accumulations of ice or snow. Damage from winter storms is the No. 3 cause of catastrophe claims across the country, according to Insure.com.
You are responsible for taking reasonable precautions for the upkeep of your home. Your homeowners policy does not protect you against loss due to poor maintenance. For example, if termites infest your home and chew away at the rafters, resulting in a roof collapse, you're out of luck. Termite damage, and any subsequent damage resulting from such an infestation, isn't covered by any type of homeowners policy.
Most types of homeowners policies protect you against all perils except specifically named events, such as earthquakes, floods, sinkholes and acts of war. For example, if your roof collapses as the result of an earthquake, your standard homeowners policy won't help you. If you live in a region that is prone to earthquakes or floods, you might be able to buy separate coverag for those specific events. Such coverage might be available from private insurance companies or from national or state programs such as the National Flood Insurance Program or the California Earthquake Authority.
- Insure.com: If the Roof of My House Caves in Due to the Weight of Snow, Is That Covered by Home Insurance?
- National Insurance Law Forum: Do's and Don'ts of Adjusting Roofing Collapse Claims
- Insurance Information Institute: What Coverage Is Included in a Standard Homeowners Insurance Policy?
- Insurance Information Institute: What types of Disasters Are Covered by My Homeowners Insurance?
Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.