Reuben’s rant: hail damaged roof claims are out of control

I’ve given up all hope of trying to assess hail damage to asphalt shingle roofs during home inspections. It’s a game. I’ve looked at dozens of roofs that were in fantastic condition, only to have roofing salespeople come behind me and insist that the roof had hail damage. When I find damage to a roof during a home inspection, I report it. But I don’t go around with a microscope trying to determine what may or may not qualify for an insurance claim.

I remember receiving a callback many years ago from a homeowner who complained that we missed hail damage. A roofing salesperson had visited her home, offered a free inspection, and told her she had obvious hail damage throughout her roof. I came out to see what we missed, and what I observed was a perfectly good roof. I crawled that roof on my hands and knees looking for hail damage, and I could find nothing.

While I was at the home I got the rest of the story from the owner. She told me the roofing salesperson and an insurance adjuster had actually spent close to two hours on the roof together, even getting into a shouting match over the supposed hail damage.

HOW SERIOUS IS HAIL DAMAGE?

While this roof may have had some degree of hail damage, how serious was it? It was nothing. If I’m looking for it and I can’t even find it, it’s not a big deal. I know, I’m surely stirring up a hornet’s nest by saying this because there’s huge money in storm restoration work, but I stand behind what I’m telling you.

For most roofs that experience hail damage, the consequence is a shorter life for the roof. Some aggregate has been knocked off of the shingles, which means the part underneath won’t have as much protection from the sun. This shortens the life of the shingles. That’s it. It doesn’t cause leaks.

Hail Damage at roof marked up.JPG

When people get new roofs because of imperceptible hail damage, I call this “winning a new roof.” It’s a crappy system because we all spend millions (billions?) of dollars replacing roofs that are still perfectly functional. Roofs with 80% of their life left will get torn off and thrown in a dumpster, only to be replaced with another roof that’ll probably have the same thing happen again in a few years.

THERE’S NO FREE LUNCH

It feels good to say Big Insurance pays for these roof replacements. This is what we pay them for, and they can afford it, right?

But we all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch. We all pay for this. We all pay way more for homeowner’s insurance to support this tremendous waste of resources. And I’m not saying this to condemn homeowners who win new roofs. After all, they paid the price to play the game.

WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?

I don’t claim to know all of the ins and outs of this game, I just know that it sucks and it costs us all money to play.

A better system would have homeowners get a prorated insurance settlement based on the age of the roof, the life expectancy of the roof, and the severity of the hail damage. Many insurance companies are moving from Replacement Costs to something called Actual Cash Value for roofs that are more than 15 years old. This means you’re not entitled to a brand new roof when your dilapidated roof gets hit by hail. My friends at All Around put together a short video explaining how insurance companies notify people of this change.

If this means that my insurance money isn’t funding all these people winning new roofs, I’m all for it.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

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Reuben is a second-generation home inspector with a passion for his work. He grew up remodeling homes and learning about carpentry since he was old enough to hold a hammer. Reuben grew up thinking he was going to be a school teacher because he enjoyed teaching others so much. In a sense, that’s a lot of what home inspections are about, so Reuben truly does what he loves. Sharlene has worked with Structure Tech since 2000 and Reuben has been contributing to her blog since 2008.

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