A reliable roof is essential and the most important part of any house, building or structure. It's often an afterthought until there is a problem and it needs work. A damaged roof that is left unattended will cause catastrophic damage to the inside of any home or building. As soon as you notice an issue with your roof, you need to act immediately, and you very well may have an insurance claim for your roof damage.
Your roof is leaking, do you have a roof damage claim?
Possibly—it depends. It depends on the underlying cause of the roof leak. Whether or not your roof damage is covered by insurance depends on the cause of the damage. For example, if there was a storm(hurricane or wind) that caused the damage to your roof resulting in leakage, then your homeowner's insurance should cover the loss. If the cause of the damage is covered by a peril you are insured against, then you will have a claim that should be covered by insurance.
You have a roof leak, but your roof is old. Can you make a claim?
Florida is home to many tropical force winds. Even if your roof is old, there is a strong possibility that your roof damage was not caused by normal wear and tear, but instead from one of the frequent wind events that occur in Florida. Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh partners with numerous experts who will determine, for free, whether your roof damage was caused by a wind event or hail storm.
What causes of roof damage does your insurance cover? What causes of roof damage does your insurance not cover?
Every insurance policy is different, but most insurance policies in Florida cover roof damage caused by windstorms, hail, lightning, fire, or hurricanes. These cause the vast majority of roof damages in the state. It was reported by the National Hurricane Center that Hurricane Irma cause over $50 billion in damages.
Similarly, there are certain causes of roof damage that are generally not covered by your insurance. The leading cause of roof damage that is excluded from insurance coverage is damage that results from normal wear and tear. It is important to note that just because your insurance company denies your claim by stating that the damage is a result of normal wear and tear, it does not mean that it is accurate. We regularly recommend to our clients to have their own independent expert assess the roof damage to determine the cause.
Unfortunately, your homeowner's insurance company is financially incentivized to deny claim payments, or in the alternative, make minimal payouts on claims. A skilled property damage attorney can help evaluate your roof damage, your insurance coverage, and your claim to determine whether your insurance company is treating your claim fairly.
How do you know if the cause of your roof damage is covered by your insurance?
This can be the tricky part. First, you must know the underlying cause of your roof damage. Only once you know the cause of the damage will you then be able to determine if your roof damage is covered by insurance. Even if you know the cause of your roof damage, insurance policies can be extremely lengthy (often around a hundred pages) and very confusing.
You homeowner's insurance policy provides all the necessary details in these situations. As previously mentioned, these policies can be extremely difficult to decipher. An experienced property damage attorney can review your homeowner's insurance policy to see if your roof damage is covered by insurance. An insurance agent who sells these policies daily may not even know if your roof damage is covered under the policy. The policies have such nuances that the importance of having a skilled roof damage attorney review it cannot be understated.
How long does a roof claim lawsuit take?
Once a homeowner starts the claim process by notifying their their insurance company they have roof damage, the insurance company has ninety days to investigate the claim and make a determination as to whether the claim is covered or the claim is considered to be denied. However, the insurance company can make their coverage determination in less than ninety days. Once there is a denial, a partial denial, or partial payment on the claim, lawsuit can be filed on behalf of the homeowner. The time of the lawsuit itself usually takes between in as little as six months or take as long eighteen months.
What if you do not have a copy of your insurance policy?
You can contact your insurance agent and they will be able to provide you a copy of your insurance policy. If needed, you can go through your insurer directly to obtain a copy of your policy. It is important to note that you want to obtain a copy of your actual insurance policy, as opposed to just the declarations page. The declarations page shows you how much coverage you have, whereas the policy itself is much lengthier and describes in detail what you are insured against.
What if you don't know the cause of your roof damage? How can you determine the cause of your roof damage?
It is very common for you as a homeowner not to initially know what causes the damage to their roof. All you know as the homeowner is that your roof is damaged and leaking water into your house. Most of the time, as a homeowner, you will not be able to see the physical damage to your roof that causes the leak.
This is especially true with smaller leaks. Small leaks can be ongoing for months before the homeowner notices the damage resulting from water leaking coming into the home. For example, a small leak caused by damage from a storm can go unnoticed because the water leaks into the attic where the damage is not visible to the homeowner. Small leaks can result in some of the greatest damage because of the mold that accumulates and the resulting structural damage from the time that the water damage went unnoticed.
Determining the cause of the damage can be tricky, but there are generally telltale signs when the cause of the damage is related to a windstorm or hurricane. For example, on a tile or shingle roof there are nails that affix the shingle tor tile to the roof. Nails are straight and shot straight into the roof. When there is a windstorm or hurricane the force of the wind causes shingles or roof tiles to lift, which causes the nails affixing them to the roof to bend. An experienced roof damage attorney with the proper experts can help determine the cause of your roof damage.
Once the cause of the damage is determined, the attorney can review your insurance policy and advise whether the damage is covered.
What if your insurance company denies your roof damage claim?
This is where we can help you. When an insurance company denies a claim when it should be paid out, we file a lawsuit against your insurance company for a breach of contract claim to force them to properly pay the claim. In essence, you obtained and paid for homeowner's insurance to protect your house, and you submitted a claim when your roof was damaged. Your homeowner's insurance breached the insurance contract that you entered with them. We file suit for damages. Below are a couple of examples of times insurance companies have denied roofing claims only to settle after we have filed suit. Call an experience insurance claim attorney if your roof claim was denied.
What if your insurance company partially denies your roof damage claim? What if your insurance company issues a partial payout for your roof damage?
It is very common for an insurance company to deny part of a roof damage claim or to only issue a partial payout. Studies have shown that an insurance company will end up paying 40% to 80% of the true cost of claims. This will result in an enormous savings to them and enormous dent in the homeowner's pocket. If your insurance company fails to issue proper payment for your roof, you need to call an attorney right away. Under Florida Building Code 708.1.1, roofs that sustain major damage may need to be replaced entirely. The state has a 25% roof replacement rule. If more than 25% of the roof of an existing home must be repaired or replaced, the entire roof must conform to the requirements of the state's code. So, if your roof sustains that amount of damage, you may be entitled to a full roof replacement under the terms of your policy.
Similarly, it is important to find out the manufacturer of your roofing material. If your roofing tiles are no longer manufactured, then it is not possible to do a partial roof replacement. This is a very common scenario when roofs are a few years older. A qualified roofing expert can look into your material manufacturer and see if replacements can even be obtained.
Why can an insurance company deny your roof damage claim? What reasons can an insurance company give for denying your roof damage claim?
Insurance companies are very experienced at saving money by denying claims. There are a variety of reasons that they give for denying a claim. These can include old age of the roof (also referred to as normal wear and tear), failure to maintain the roof, failure to mitigate further damage of the roof, and that only a portion of the roof needs to be repaired. Our extensive knowledge and experience with these claims help our client's avoid these bogus denials and defenses in a roof damage case.
Do you have a claim if the insurance company issues a partial payment for your damage? Do you have a claim if the insurance company does not offer to pay the cost of the full roof replacement?
Yes. A partial payment for an insurance company can be fought and we challenge these partial payments on a regular basis. There are situations where an insurance company will agree that your roof needs to be replaced, but then do not offer enough money to replace your roof. We can challenge and fight the insurance company's valuation of the roof replacement.
Can you hire a property damage attorney file a claim?
Yes. Dealing with insurance companies can be a daunting task. Often times, attorneys do not get involved until after a claim has been denied, but when we are brought in initially we can help the homeowner obtain and review their policy, home inspections, and other documentation of their home before the claim is even made to streamline and speed up the entire claims process.
What if the insurance company only wants to repair your roof instead of replacing it?
This is common practice with insurance companies because it is cheaper. They save more money by attempting to patch a roof as opposed to replacing the whole thing. However, a patched roof can lead to further problems. First, your entire roof may be damaged and need to be replaced. Just because the roof is leaking in one area does not mean that the damage is coming from that area. Water travels following gravity and travels to the lowest point. The point entry into your house is not necessarily directly above where the roof failed. Furthermore, as previously stated, just because your roof is not leaking does not mean that it is not damaged and will not leak in the future during the next significant storm. As mentioned above, the state of Florida has the 25% roof replacement rule.
It is imperative to have a professional roofer evaluate your roof damage to give you an independent opinion. Any partial repair not done properly or done when a full replacement is needed will only cause further damage. We regularly work with roofing professionals that can examine and determine the extent of your roof damage.
Can you fight the insurance company if you cashed the partial payment? Can you cash the partial payment check from the insurance company and still pursue a claim against them?
Probably, but it is very important to read letters the property insurance company sends you with the check. Most of the time when an insurance company issues the check, they state that this is a partial payment for your claim. You can always pursue a claim against your homeowner's insurance as long as you have not executed a full release partial payment the insurance company sent you.
What if your personal property is damaged as a result of your roof leaking?
Most homeowner's insurance policies have personal property coverage. This means that you insurance company will likely pay for your personal property that is damaged as a result of your leaking roof. The insurance company will often low ball the payout amount for damage to personal property. They will try to justify this lower payout by claiming your personal items have depreciated in value since you purchased them. However, depreciation is subjective in nature. This subjectivity can be successfully challenged.
Does your insurance company pay for a hotel or rent if your roof is damaged?
They can in extreme situations. If your roof damage is so extensive that you cannot live in the house, most insurance policies have Additional Living Expenses (referred to as “ALE”). This will cover your temporary living expenses while your roof is being repaired.
Does the type of roof you have matter if it is damaged?
Yes. There are some roofs do not have the ability to be repaired, and the entire roof must be replaced. Additionally, the price of a roof varies depending on the type of materials used in construction. For example, the materials for a shingle roof are less expensive than the cost of a barrel tile roof. Furthermore, some roofs will require more labor than others, which increases the replacement cost.
The normal life expectancy of a roof varies depending on the type of material your roof is made from. According to U.S. News and World Report, asphalt shingle roofs last around 20 years, concrete shingles last around 25 years, while slate, copper and tile roofs can last up to 50 years. These listed life expectancies vary depending on the weather and climate conditions. Unfortunately, with the aggressive weather conditions that we face in Florida, the life expectancy of a roof in Florida is significantly less.
The overall condition and life expectancy of a roof is very important to know because insurance companies often use this as a defense as to why they deny coverage for roof damage. It is imperative that an experienced roofer inspects, evaluates and estimates the cost to fix your damaged roof. An experienced property damage attorney can avoid these pitfalls with the use of an experienced professional roofer.
What if you hire a Public Adjuster for your roof damage claim and they cannot settle your case? Can you still hire an attorney?
If you have a public adjuster, you can always still hire an attorney. As helpful as a public adjuster can be in filing a claim with an insurance company, they still cannot file a lawsuit. Only an attorney can file a lawsuit on your behalf. A lawsuit will be necessary if your public adjuster and your insurance company cannot agree on the damages. Also, a lawsuit will be necessary if the insurance company denies coverage and your public adjuster cannot convince them that the claim should be covered under the policy.
If you believe you have a roof damage claim what should you do?
The first thing you should to is inspect it and take pictures. It may or may not be obvious when your roof is damaged. For example, after a large hail or windstorm, it is easy to spot when you see missing or damaged tiles on your roof. Find a way to mitigate the roof damage if you can. When your roof is damaged you need to act immediately because the damage, if not addressed, can lead to additional damage to your home. Contact your insurance company so that they may inspect the damage and the claim process can begin. Find a reliable experienced roofing contractor. As property damage attorneys, we work regularly with reliable, experienced roofers.
How much does a roof damage attorney cost? What if you can't afford an attorney?
At Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh we work on a contingency fee basis. We accept a portion of what we recover for you. In addition, if we file suit against your insurance company, and we recover more than $1.00, your insurance company must pay for your attorney's fees. This means that we do not get paid until your case is resolved. In other words, if we do not make a recovery for you, then we make nothing. This is referred to as the no fee guarantee. This ensures that we are financially motivated to maximize your recovery as quickly as possible.