The hurricanes of 2017 have been a brutal reminder of the havoc that extreme weather can wreak on families and the homes they live in. Although the DMV rarely takes the brunt of tropical storms the way other parts of the South and Southeast do, Mother Nature can still hammer roofs in our region, from heavy snowfall bringing branches down on homes in the winter to hail and high winds in the spring and summer to nor’easters and other storms in the fall.
When the weather does, however, damage your house, filing a roofing insurance claim might be necessary to pay for the repairs. Missing shingles and damaged flashing should not be left unrepaired, and after a more ferocious storm, the damage may be more serious than what you can see with the naked eye. Fortunately, most homeowner’s policies cover this damage, but the process can be stressful. Here are five tips for filing a roofing insurance claim to make the task easier:
1. Know your policy
Some policies may not fully cover a damaged roof that is older than 10 years. Others may require you to file a claim relatively soon after a roof-damaging event. You should know the particulars of your homeowner’s policy so that you aren’t scrambling as much after a weather event—when you likely already might be a bit frazzled. After a tornado has ripped off your roof isn’t the time to find out what is and isn’t covered.
2. Inspect the damage immediately
After the wind blows through and the rain dies down, go outside to see how your roof held up. Some damage will be obvious from ground level, but you may need to climb a ladder (carefully and not when it’s wet or windy) to get a better look. We don’t recommend climbing atop your roof; if you suspect damage that you can’t easily see (or you don’t feel comfortable on a ladder), call a qualified roofer to perform an inspection.
3. Pictures and descriptions
When you file a claim, the more detailed you can be, the better. Fortunately, in our digital age, you can take pictures and video on a smartphone; don’t be shy when recording the damage. Better yet, before a storm hits, take a series of pictures documenting your whole roof—these photos will provide a valuable before-and-after comparison for the insurance company. Also, be as descriptive as possible when you email your claim or fill out an online form. The more information you can provide, the likelier your insurance company will be to disburse funds that are adequate to cover your losses.
4. Contact your insurance company
This is a no-brainer, but as already alluded to, you don’t want to wait. Your policy may require you to file a claim within a certain period of time; plus, other homeowners may have experienced damage and will be calling the same contractors you will—you don’t want repair delays just because you were late to act. When calling your insurance company, stay as focused as possible (we know, that might not be easy if there’s a gaping hole in your roof), have your policy number on hand, and answer the customer service representative’s questions as thoroughly as possible. If you have the results of a professional inspection and/or an estimate (more on this next), provide that information as well.
5. Pick a trustworthy, knowledgeable roofer
To fix the damage to your roof—whether immediate emergency repairs are required or you can wait a little bit—you will need to tab a reliable contractor to inspect the roof, provide an estimate, and do the job. Beware of roofers who offer a free estimate but want you to sign a contingency agreement, which basically gives them the job (and the subsequent insurance payout) if your claim is approved. Don’t sign anything just to get an estimate.
Another consideration for picking a roofer is finding one with experience working with insurance companies and the claims process. This makes the process easier for you and helps guarantee you receive as much disbursement as possible. After a storm, you want your roof and your home to be fully functional again. An outstanding contractor delivers in your time of need.