Dealing with roof damage and the general aftermath of a major storm, hurricane, or other natural disaster can be one of the most stressful times in your life.
After all, you have to not only make sure your property is safe for people to enter, you have to navigate the entire complicated roofing insurance claim process that involves insurance adjusters, contractors with expertise in the specific type of roofing system that you had, and in many cases your own insurance and mortgage companies.
Experiencing significant damage to your roof is undoubtedly a stressful time, between navigating the insurance claim process, follow-ups with public adjusters who specialize in the types of roofing claims you are dealing with, and even the loss of business that may result from not being to fully use your property.
But there is help in the form of public adjusters and it can all be easier than you think.
How Start Your Claim? Look for Damage Right Away
Immediately after a natural disaster, major storm or hail damage, you should be assessing the condition of your roof right away (after you make sure everyone is safe and the property is safe to enter, of course).
If you notice visible damage, leaks, or other problems, be sure to call your contractor to inspect your roof – or ask around for a reputable contractor if you don’t already have one on speed dial.
Even if your roof looks perfectly fine from the outside and there are seemingly no leaks, it’s important to get it inspected if you’ve experienced a major weather event or similar occurrence that could cause damage to your roof – there are issues only an experienced roofing specialist could uncover.
What Type of Roof Damage Should You Look For?
Note that wind can blow off shingles or other coverings, causing leaks or damage to the underlying membranes, while the weight or pressure from hail (especially hailstones that are large or irregularly shared) can cause small imperfections that get larger and more problematic over time.
And of course, a major event like a hurricane or tornado can require the replacement of the roof completely.
Also, be sure to check your insurance policy or speak to your public adjuster, since there are some that have requirements regarding how long you can wait after a major storm or disaster and still have your roof repairs or restorations covered under the policy.
Accordingly, you should have your roof inspected as soon it is safe after a major storm, natural disaster, or similar incident that could result in damage.
Whether or not you notice any immediate damage, it will be important for your future insurance claim to mitigate any potential problems by placing tarps over the roof and checking for water damage, mold, or other issues that may cause further damage before your insurance claim can get paid out and your roof can be restored or repaired.
Know that the insurance process can be long and involve lots of documentation, research, and follow-up, but your public adjuster is your advocate and will help through the process.
Document Everything – And Do It All the Time
Document early and document often. When you acquire a new property or make significant renovations (like installing a new roof), take detailed photos and videos of its condition and store them in multiple safe places (such as uploading them to a cloud account as well as a hard drive or USB storage).
This will make any insurance claims process go faster and your public adjuster will thank you – and just in case you’re required to attend an examination under oath, your public adjuster and you will be well prepared.
It’s a great practice to regularly take pictures of your roof and the rest of your property. This is particularly important after any type of maintenance is completed; of course, this in addition to when you first bought it and after any major disaster like a hurricane or a tornado or significant storm, especially one that involves hail, which can cause significant long-term weaknesses that may not be immediately obvious.
Be sure that your images and videos are clearly stamped with the date and time – there are apps for that of course on iPhone, Android, and Windows phones – and take multiple pictures from as many angles make sense for your home or building.
Video walkthroughs can help you capture everything as well. The more details you have, the more valid your arguments will be when it’s time to make a roof-related damage claim with your insurance company.
After a wind, hail storm, tornado, or other natural disaster that could affect the state of your roof, it’s important to document as well. As soon as it is safe to enter the property, take pictures and videos of everything but particularly any obvious damage or weak spots.
Working with an experienced roofing contractor is especially valuable here, since they will know where to look for potential damage, be aware of any weak spots, and will help you thoroughly document the damage and how extensive it is as well as assist you in determining the potential costs of repairs.
What Information to Collect Before Making Roof Insurance Claims
You’ll want to ask for their pictures of the damaged areas along with a written explanation of what needs to be fixed and the estimated costs associated with the repairs.
In the case that you have some damage but not enough to make an insurance claim worthwhile, your contractor can likely work out a repair plan with you (and as always, consult your public adjuster if you have any questions).
More extensive damage or even a total loss will require you and your public adjuster to work with your insurance company, which includes taking steps like providing proof of the damage (this is where your before and after photo and video documentation will be super handy), measurements of the roof and damaged areas, the event(s) that caused the damage, and the dates and times associated with those events.
Contact Your Public Adjuster First, Then Your Insurance Company
Filing a homeowners insurance claim for roof damage with insurance company representatives, no matter how friendly and helpful they may be, are on the side of the insurance company. On the other hand, your public adjuster is your own advocate and is on your side. They want you to get the highest possible payout that you deserve.
That said, if you’ve experienced extensive damage to your property’s roofing system, you’ll want to start with your public adjuster and then contact your contractor(s) and insurance company sooner rather than later, since many insurance companies have limitations on how long you can wait after a major incident that damaged your roof to submit a claim.
Always Keep A Copy of Your Roof Insurance Policy on Hand (And Your Warranty)
It should practically go without saying that you should always have a current copy of all your insurance policies on hand, as well as contact information for your public adjuster and an experienced contractor (or contractors, depending on your area and your needs).
This will help you determine not only what is covered, but the statute of limitations in place as far as the timeline for reporting damage and what types of leaks or damage are or are not covered.
Most insurance policies will lay out exactly what is covered and what is not, but of course you can ask your public adjuster if you have any questions about what exactly is included in your roofing insurance policy.
For instance, if you have an older roof (most likely ten years or more, depending again on your policy and the type of roof it is), your insurance company may only pay out a percentage or portion of your roof repair or replacement cost, since the overall value of your roof would have depreciated over the years.
Note that when you submit your roof insurance claim, the insurance company will send out their own adjuster to inspect the damage to your roof and decide the amount that the insurance company will provide for your roof repairs.
This is another reason why it’s essential to talk to your public adjuster before the insurance company, so you can be prepared from their inspection and the eventual results.
You should also be aware of what’s covered in your roofing warranties – both the manufacturer’s warranty (which only covers materials and may not be applicable for in the case of most types of roof damage) and the workmanship warranty, which may be applicable in this case if proves that the damage was the result of faulty workmanship as well as a storm or other major weather event.
How to Ensure Your Insurance Company Pays Out Your Claim
If you have a wind or storm damaged roof, you’ll likely be anxious to get it repaired or replaced and want to ensure a payout and subsequent repairs as soon as possible.
Therefore, the first person you call up (after everyone is safe and your property is secured, of course) should be your public adjuster.
You should also be aware that your insurance company can withhold depreciation or part of your payout in order to ensure that you actually do the work on your roof with the money, since people sometimes spend their payout on something else, especially if their property’s roof isn’t a total loss.
Note that if the roofing contractors you contract give you estimates that are significantly greater than your potential insurance payout or vice versa, they likely missed something in the scope of work and you’ll need to work with your public adjuster to have the estimates revised to be more accurate for your needs.
But what if your insurance company denies your claim? You can appeal with the help of your best advocate – your public adjuster.
The Importance of Choosing A Roofing Contractor with Insurance Expertise
If your roof insurance claim is fully or partially covered under your existing insurance policy, you’ll have some money to repair your roof, or replace it completely.
Be sure to ask for references and examples of previous work experience when you are selecting your contractor if you don’t already have one; your public adjuster can likely provide recommendations as well.
Always feel free to shop around and get multiple estimates for various contractors in order to make sure that you’re not being overcharged, and that you have all the information necessary to get the best value – and best quality – work on your roofing system.
Should You Share Your Insurance Information with Your Contractor?
Note that you may or may not want your contractor to see the potential insurance payout before they create their estimate – on one hand, they’ll have a good idea of your budget and can advise you accordingly, on the other hand, they can make sure they take full advantage of the payout and charge accordingly.
Always check the Better Business Bureau, online reviews, google the company name as well as the principal contractors’ or owners’ names, and ask around in your community to find the best possible choice for your roof repair.
Gauge the reputation of contractor (you may feel safer sharing numbers with them if you’ve worked with them in the past or they came highly recommended by your public adjuster) and decide what you feel most comfortable with and how much information about your potential funds that you want to share.
That said, a reputable, experienced roofing contractor should give you a fair estimate and they may want to work with your insurance agent (and your public adjuster can and should be involved) in order to get you the best possible deal.
Know that not every roofing contractor will offer insurance claim assistance – which doesn’t mean that they don’t do good work, it’s just not their area of expertise – but some may have adjusters on staff to help through every step of the roof insurance claim process.
What Are Contingency Contracts and Why You Should Avoid Them
What’s more, as you move the insurance claim process for your roof repairs or replacement, you’ll want to keep a close eye for contingency contracts.
These are an offer to provide a free inspection report for your insurance company and an estimate for repairs, but they also commit you to working with the particular roofing company that provided the inspection and estimate.
If you ever feel pressured into signing something, just don’t. A reputable contractor won’t ask you to sign something before they inspect the damage to your roof and give you an estimate for the repair costs.
And then do your research before signing anything – an estimate should be free of charge and something they do in order to get your business in the future.
And always consult with your public adjuster if you are unsure about any step of the roof insurance claim process.
Know That A Roof Insurance Claim is a Long Process
A roof insurance claim can feel like it is taking forever, especially if the roof damage is impeding your ability to do business.
This is partnering with a public adjuster you trust as well as an experienced and trustworthy roofing contractor is essential – not only for your property, but for your home or business.
They will work with you every step of the way and ensure that all your documentation and paperwork is in order and submitted correctly to your insurance company, and generally help things along until your roof is repaired, restored, or replaced.
Know that hail storms, wind storms, and other damage from natural disasters are all considered losses against your insurance policy, so be aware, follow these steps, and work with your contractors, insurance company, and most importantly your public adjuster to make the roof insurance claim process as smooth as possible.