The clouds roll in. The winds rise. And suddenly, giant balls of ice are plummeting out of the sky, and we all have a collective moment of panic about whether our cars are in the garage.
Texas has more hail storms than any other state in the country, and you can be sure that we’ll see some hail in DFW sometime between March and June every year. It’s easy to see the damage to your patio, landscaping, and vehicle – but what about your roof?
A significant percentage of roofs that are hit by hail don’t get replaced because homeowners can’t see the damage from the ground. But even seemingly minor hail storms can cause big problems later. Just a small patch of exposed asphalt immediately begins to deteriorate under UV radiation, potentially leading to leaks and expensive water damage – at which point it might be too late to make a successful insurance claim.
We’ll cover how to determine if there’s hail damage on your roof, what to do next, and how to make sure you get the best coverage from your insurance company.
How To Determine if there is Hail Damage On Your Roof
Here’s our usual warning: please don’t climb up on your roof to look for damage after a hail storm! Climbing on your roof at any time is risky, but it is especially dangerous with ice and water still around.
Instead, you can get a general idea of whether you need to schedule a roof inspection by looking at your:
- Decks and painted wood surfaces
- Gutters and downspouts
- Outdoor air condenser unit
- Windows, windowsills, and casings
- Plants, grass, bushes, and flowerbeds
If these parts of your home have dents, dings, cracks or other damage (similar to the pictures above), then it’s probable that your roof does too.
Finally, check out your surrounding neighborhood. Do cars have dents in them? Is there much damage to the front lawns? Chances are, if your neighbors are having their roofs repaired or replaced after a storm, then your roof likely suffered damage too.
Evidence to Gather after a Hail Storm
If you think your roof may have hail damage, you’ll want to start collecting evidence immediately. Most insurance companies are honest, but it’s important to keep records to back up your position in case your claim is mishandled or unfairly rejected.
After a hailstorm we suggest that you:
Keep copies of all your correspondence with roofers, inspectors, and insurance adjusters. When you speak to someone on the phone, document when you spoke, who you talked to, what was discussed, and what the outcome was.
Note the exact date and time of the hail storm. Your insurance company may need to verify this information with weather records.
Take photos of your yard, home, and property, paying close attention to damaged areas. The more photos you take, the better! Make sure you include some of a hailstone next to another object for scale, like a golf ball or ruler. And then back up those photos to the cloud so you can’t lose them!
Keep receipts for any expenses you incur due to the hail storm. For example, if the damage was so extensive that you have to stay at a hotel, make sure you keep a record of that.
This doesn’t have to be too complicated – just grab a small notebook where you can jot down notes about conversations and keep any paperwork, and keep it at hand throughout the process. If you need to prove damage later on, it’ll be a lifesaver!
Get A Roof Inspection After A Hail Storm
If you suspect roof damage, your next step – even before calling your insurance company! – is to get a roof inspection.
Most roofing companies offer free roof inspections and will know exactly what to look for when they get up on your roof. Having a qualified roofing contractor come out will also give you peace of mind that there isn’t any current damage that could cause big problems later on.
It’s important to get the inspection done quickly, preferably within a week or two but certainly within a month. While homeowners typically have one year to file a hail damage claim with their insurance company, you have to be able to show that the roof damage was actually caused by the hail storm. This means that the longer you leave the inspection, the easier it is for an insurance company to claim that your current roof damage was caused by waiting too long to get repairs. Unfortunately, this applies whether you were aware of the damage or not!
Getting a prompt roof inspection also protects you when you sell your home in the future. The last thing you want is for a buyer’s inspection to turn up hail damage you weren’t aware of, because then the buyer will want the roof replaced before closing, or try to reduce the sales price to cover the roof repair. Either way, it will cost you.
Overall, you have a lot more to lose from not getting a roof inspection. After all, it’s free, so go ahead and set one up quickly after the next hail storm comes your way.
But who should you choose?
How To Avoid Storm Chasers
If you’ve ever gone through a big hail storm, you know what happens next. Storm chasers blow into town too, knocking on doors, leaving flyers everywhere, and generally being a nuisance. While some of these companies are legitimate and reputable, sadly, the majority are not.
Storm chasers are typically smaller, not-very-trustworthy roofing companies that descend on a neighborhood hit by hail, hoping to pick up roofing jobs. They’re often not local, which means it’s harder to get resolution if there are any problems or concerns during the repair process. Some even collect money from homeowners and then move on to the next storm before paying suppliers or finishing their work.
The biggest red flag is any roofing company that offers to pay your homeowner’s insurance deductible. This is illegal and you will be committing insurance fraud, plain and simple. Whatever way these scammers try to rationalize it to you, not paying your deductible is a breach of contract by you, the homeowner. If you profit in any way from your insurance claim, such as not paying your deductible or pocketing any of the insurance money, you are committing fraud – so don’t even go there!
Here are our tops tips for avoiding storm chasers who just want to scam vulnerable homeowners after a hail storm:
- Don’t pay cash up front.
- Run away from any contractor that offers to pay your insurance deductible.
- Choose local companies and get several estimates.
- Research the contractors you’re considering: check their references, their Google and Facebook reviews, and their Better Business Bureau rating, and make sure they have worker’s compensation and liability insurance.
For more on this, take a look at our post on How to Choose the Best Roofing Company.
What To Expect From Your Roofing Inspection
The roofing contractor will let you know whether your roof is damaged, and if so, give you an approximate quote on how much the repairs will cost. This repair estimate from the roofing contractor helps you have a reference point when your insurance adjuster comes to evaluate the damage.
Furthermore, a qualified roof inspector will know whether the hail damage is functional or cosmetic. Cosmetic damage means that although there are signs of hail, the roof’s ability to protect the home isn’t affected. Functional hail damage refers to damage that affects the integrity and longevity of the roof. Insurers can avoid paying a claim for purely cosmetic damage, so a roof inspector can use his expertise to point out areas where the damage is truly functional.
Ultimately, your roofing contractor will give you a written estimate with photos, detailing the damage that you can use when you file your claim. Good contractors will also guide you through the claims process, as they work with insurance companies every day and understand the process better than the average homeowner.
Even after a severe hail storm, there are times when the damage isn’t enough to warrant a roof insurance claim. Getting a repair estimate from the roofing contractor will give you an idea of whether the damage is more than your deductible on your insurance, and whether it’s worthwhile filing a claim.
Filing A Hail Damage Roof Insurance Claim
If your hail damage does require repair or replacement, the next step is to contact your homeowner’s insurance company. Of all the tips for filing an insurance claim, one of the most important is to get your insurance company fully involved from the beginning!
Organize all your records, facts and photographs so you can give your insurer the necessary information. Once you’ve filed a claim, you will be assigned a case number and an insurance assessor will be scheduled to come out to evaluate the damage to your roof to determine how much the insurance company will pay out.
Make sure that when the insurance adjuster comes, you also get the roofing contractor to come at the same time. You are entitled to have a contractor of choice represent you during the adjustment process to expediate the settlement of your claim. While a contractor can’t attest to your insurance coverage or argue with your adjuster over the scope of the work, they can offer their expertise in the degree of damage to your roofing and siding, and will make sure that the assessor doesn’t overlook any of the hail damage to your roof.
According to The Lane Law Firm many homeowners fear if they make a claim, their rates will go up or their policy could be cancelled. While this may be true for incidents within your control, like a bathtub overflowing, it is not the case for naturally occurring events like hail storms. These are considered “Act of God” incidents and cannot result in an increase in premiums, cancellation, or non-renewal. So don’t avoid filing a claim promptly!
Once the insurance adjuster approves your claim, the insurance company will send you their approved scope of work along with pricing. If your roofing contractor disagrees, it’s the contractor’s job to provide evidence to why the scope of work or pricing needs to be adjusted. This is another place where choosing a local, reputable company will stand you in good stead.
What To Do If Your Roof Insurance Claim Is Denied
If you receive a denial for your claim, you can contest it and ask for a reinspection.
There are plenty of reasons why an insurance denial might be made at first and then overturned. Perhaps a mistake was made during the process, or the denial was made based on inaccurate information, so be persistent.
When a claim is denied, the insurance company must provide a written explanation within 15 days of you providing all requested information. This letter should give you clear, specific reasons for the denial and should reference the section of your policy that supports the denial. Compare the denial reason with the language cited in your policy. If the reason is vague or ambiguous, request further clarification in writing from your insurance company. And don’t forget to keep documenting all correspondence!
The best next step is a reinspection from the insurance adjuster. During a reinspection, the insurance adjustor meets with the roofing contractor to review your roof damage together. Your roofing contractor may be able point out things the adjuster missed the first time around. Reinspections are common, and a second look may be all it takes to get your claim approved.
As a last resort, in cases where the denial stands but you feel your claim is justified, you can file an appeal or take the issue to a third-party regulatory agency in your state—typically an insurance commission.
Final Thoughts On Recovering From Hail Damage
Although undergoing a severe hail storm is overwhelming and stressful, we hope this guide will make it easier for you next time a storm comes your way. With the right information, and a reputable contractor to guide you, you should be able to get your roof repaired or replaced with as little hassle as possible.
Any time you think your roof might have storm damage, please give us a call. We’d be happy to come out and give you a free inspection and our honest opinion on your options moving forward.