Al Foster owns three rental properties near Colorado Springs. In the last three years, he’s had to replace the roofs on all of them due to hail damage.
“The hail was the size of a quarter at my house and the size of a tennis ball five miles south of here,” Foster said.
He replaced the roof on his third property three years ago and it already has minor damage.
His homes fall within the heart of “Hail Alley,” a region from Texas to the Dakotas with a high frequency of hail storms every year.
Residents in these areas can expect three to four catastrophic hail events annually — and the damage that comes along with it.
In 2017, hail damage affected more than 10.7 million properties and insured losses tipped the $10 billion mark in 2018 which begs the question, what happens if your home gets damaged by hail?
Does homeowners insurance cover hail damage?
Hail damage is one of the most common claims on homeowners insurance. It accounts for nearly 70 percent of insured property losses from severe storms every year.
Fortunately, most basic homeowners insurance policies cover structural property damage from hazards like hail. It’s covered under what’s called dwelling protection coverage (sometimes called Coverage A).
Dwelling protection coverage will help you pay for the repairs and rebuilding of the physical structures of your home and anything attached to it as long as a named peril damaged it. While policies vary, they generally insure against hazards or perils, such as fire, hail, theft, windstorms, vandalism, and lightning.
Generally, covered structures include the roof, windows, garage, appliances, porch or deck. Most policies also cover detached structures that are separate from your house, such as a garage or tool shed.
The amount covered for repairs depends on the limits and deductibles you chose for your policy.
For Foster, having hail coverage in his homeowners insurance policy was better than not having it.
“My agent helped me pick my plan,” he said, “It was certainly something I wanted and needed in this area.”
While most policies typically include hail damage, the extent of protection can vary from state to state and by geographical location. The best way to know if you are covered is to contact your insurance provider and verify what your homeowners insurance policy covers.
Should I file a claim if my roof is damaged by hail?
If a hail storm hits, document the date and take pictures of the damage prior to any cleanup or repairs. If you can, snap photos of the hail, but only if it’s safe. Use these to support your claim.
Cover any roof or window damage with a waterproof tarp to protect against further water damage.
You can either call your insurance company immediately to report the damage or you can hire a reputable roofing professional separate from your insurance company to inspect.
Assessing the damage
Foster chose to hire his own independent roofer before filing a claim.
If you have damage, you should file your claim as soon as possible. If an independent roofer verified the damage, let your homeowners insurance company know you had it inspected and what repairs were recommended.
The insurance company will send out an adjuster to assess the damage and provide an estimate for repairs or replacement.
“He’ll come out and be at my house when the adjuster comes,” Foster said. “It’s critical that he’s there. He’ll find damage and point it out to the insurance company.”
Foster chose to hire an independent roofer because they don’t charge for inspections because chances are you’ll hire them for the repairs.
You don’t have to hire an independent contractor but depending on their recommendations, it could save yourself from an unnecessary small claim that has the potential to increase your premium.
One of Foster’s roofs had damage but no leaks, so his roofer didn’t recommend repairs.
“He told me to just wait because if I filed a claim, I’d end up spending too much,” he said.
After your deductible is met, your insurance company should send you a claim check to be used for the repairs.
Foster received a check for partial payment and once the job is complete, he’ll get another check for the remaining amount.
Are there limits to what homeowners insurance covers for hail damage?
Due to the high volume of hail related claims every year, insurers have tightened their belts on the types of damage they cover.
If you have several nicked shingles from a hail storm, but no leaks or functional damage, then a claim would be considered “cosmetic” and likely won’t be covered under a policy exclusion.
Water damage is another tricky exclusion. It should be covered if it happened in a hailstorm but might not be if it happened in tandem with a flood.
You can always opt for a higher premium and discuss additional coverage for certain exclusions.
Will my premiums spike after I file a claim?
Hail damage isn’t a preventable hazard and therefore it shouldn’t increase your insurance if you file a claim.
However, your homeowners insurance premiums could increase if you file multiple small claims or live in an area with a high risk of recurring claims year over year.
If you live in a hail-prone region (like Hail Alley), your insurer might raise premiums on all policies to cover for the high number of claims made or even exclude automatic hail coverage.
Foster estimates that 40 to 50 percent of the homes in his neighborhood have had new roofs installed within the past year.
“The insurance companies took a big hit here,” he said.
His premiums haven’t gone up yet, but he expects his coverage or premiums might change due to the volume of claims.
Protecting your home from hail
The largest hailstone recorded was 8 inches and 1.94 pounds.
Large baseball-sized hail is becoming more common. So here are some precautions you can take to safeguard your home before storm season hits.
Take pictures of your home and roof in its current condition before any damage has occurred. Save your receipts from any repairs or inspections.
2. Perform routine maintenance and inspections
Check your attic for water damage and fix any leaks. Hire a professional roofer to inspect and repair any broken or worn shingles.
3. Stormproof your roof
“Asphalt shingles just don’t cut it anymore,” Foster said. The two roofs he replaced were asphalt.
After filing his claim, he said the insurance company wouldn’t let him replace the roof with anything but impact-resistant shingles.
Impact-resistant shingles protect against both cosmetic and functional damage and minimize the number of claims filed in the long run. You can proactively replace your roof with these or reinforce weak spots.
Foster earned a 20 percent discount on his premium for investing in impact-resistant. Some policies will offer higher coverage limits for installing them.
4. Have reliable insurance
Protecting yourself financially is paramount when it comes to natural disasters. Having a robust homeowners insurance policy can save you thousands in repairs. Check your current policy to see if you have enough coverage to protect your home. You can always contact your insurance company to talk about changing your policy.
When it comes to protecting your car from hail damage, try to remember to park your car in a garage and if you can’t do that, use a car cover or blankets to shield the windows and the windshield.
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