Top Ten Things Homeowners Should Know About Hail Damage
At Lindstrom Restoration, we’ve observed that many homeowners are poorly informed about what hail damage is, and how they should go about determining whether they have it or not. They’re also confused about the insurance process and often approach it with an adversarial attitude thanks to misinformation supplied by some roofing and exterior contractors, well-meaning friends, neighbors, and relatives.
At Lindstrom Restoration, we can be very objective about hail damage. First, we are not a roofing or exterior company. Second, while our employees don’t do this type of work, our staff IS trained to determine legitimate hail damage and we periodically do roof inspections. In fact, our president, Mike Lindstrom, is Haag Certified, which means he is highly trained and qualified to do roof inspections. Also, in many storm or fire-damaged homes, we are the general contractor and employ very qualified and reputable roofing and exterior contractors to do that portion of the work. So yes, we can speak informatively on the subject.
We have several observations, facts, and opinions on hail damage that homeowners may be interested in, and that knowledge is timely. Last May, parts of the Metro Area were pelted with very large hail. Within minutes some roofing companies were sending out “storm troopers” to knock on doors and sign contracts. Many displayed very official-looking maps indicating the size of the hail impacting certain neighborhoods. Some of the maps are legit and put out by meteorologists. But these maps are designed to be general guides. Weather experts tell us that hail doesn’t always fall by zip code or even local neighborhoods. And it falls in varying sizes ranging from pea to softball sized. Ever drive from dry pavement into a sudden deluge? Have you seen it pour across the street from your home? Hail is no different. Ask the farmer who has corn stalks standing next to ones that are down. The first thing you should know about hail damage is that it can differ greatly and be very sporadic. The weather is random and inconsistent. The house across the street that is getting a new roof may have been hit by larger hail than what fell on your house.
A second fact about hail damage is that other factors can affect whether your roof may have been impaired. Overhanging trees, roof slope, hail direction, shingle quality, and age can all impact damage. Trees block hail, and high winds can direct it horizontally (resulting in exterior damage). The more pitched your roof is, the more likely it is to deflect hail and thus lessen its impact. Also, there is a significant difference in shingle quality and age. The better the shingle the more impact-resistant it will be. Also, the newer a roof is, the more protective it will be. This all might explain why the house next to you was approved for a new roof and yours wasn’t.
Third, our experience is that most insurance carriers are very fair with respect to honoring coverage commitments on damaged roofs. This is not what some door-knocking contractors will tell you. They often criticize insurers for being self-interested and unwilling to honor their policy commitments. Their goal is to create adversarial relationships where they will “fight for your interests.”
While we’re discussing aggressive roofing contractors, it is clear many contractors attempt to coerce homeowners to sign contracts immediately after they inspect the roof. Minnesota has a three-day “cooling off” law wherein consumers can cancel contracts:
It’s sad to say but many contractors are either unethical or untrained in detecting legitimate hail damage. What happens when a roofing contract is signed, the three-day cooling-off period is over, but the claim was denied by the insurance company? We are not attorneys, but we’ve observed in many cases that the homeowner is obligated to the contract or may lose money backing out of it depending on how it is written.
A fourth thing people should know is to always get a couple of opinions on hail damage from reputable contractors BEFORE filing a claim. We have heard this advice from many insurance agents, and it makes sense. They tell us that some of their clients insist on filing a claim either before their roof is inspected or after a contractor has told them they have hail damage. The general advice is homeowners should work with contractors who are reputable, experienced, and have an informed idea of what insurance adjusters consider damage. Contractors who work regularly with many insurance companies will have a good idea whether your roof or exterior has sufficient damage to be replaced. Ideally, you want a contractor who can work amicably and not competitively with insurance adjusters. Ask your agent about this, but many insurance professionals tell us that even if the claim is denied, there is still a mark on the homeowner’s record, which may lead to a higher premium rate or even in a worst-case scenario, cancellation.
Again, consult your insurance agent for more information on this, but we often see many insureds who aren’t insured for some roof replacements particularly when a roof is very old, or a suitable match is not found from existing shingles or siding available for purchase. The color may have faded, or the color/design you purchased is no longer available. Many companies require homeowners to purchase certain endorsements to broaden coverage. So, number five is to make sure you have the appropriate coverage you want for your home. Our recommendation is to work with a knowledgeable insurance agent who not only will recommend the proper coverage for your property but will also periodically review your changing needs with you.
A sixth thing to keep in mind is choosing a licensed, reputable contractor who is experienced, qualified, and will offer an excellent warranty. The Minnesota State Department of Labor has advice for selecting a contractor. Too many people are burned when a fly-by-night operator takes a down payment and then leaves town or goes out of business. Consider working with contractors who have been in business for a few years and have excellent ratings with the Better Business Bureau, or who have been vetted by others. Lindstrom suggests that people work with insurance agents who offer value-added services such as referring you to vetted quality vendors who do great work at a fair price. To be clear though, Minnesota State law also mandates that you can pick any vendor you want and aren’t required to use a contractor that an insurance company may push on you. Contractor’s warranties differ (as do manufacturer’s) so pay attention to that.
A seventh item to be aware of with hail damage is contractors who promise to rebate or pay for your deductible are violating State law. State law prohibits this practice, and you should think twice about doing business with anyone who promises to do so.
At Lindstrom Restoration, we have also seen people who waited too long to file their claim and were unable to take advantage of their insurance coverage. Most insurance companies have time periods in which to file a claim and get the work done. Our eighth item to be aware of with hail damage is to consult with your insurance agent to make sure how much time you have to file a claim and when you need to have the work completed. Keep in mind that weather is always a factor in Minnesota, and while exteriors and roofs can be done all year round, some prefer doing it in better weather.
Ninth, be aware that a claim denial may not be the end of your loss settlement. Your adjuster may not see legitimate hail damage, but that doesn’t mean it’s the definitive end of the process. If at least a couple of reputable contractors are convinced your roof or siding is damaged, it’s worth requesting a second inspection. We’ve seen plenty of situations where another adjuster has a differing analysis. Did the second adjuster inspection concur with the first denial, and do you still think you have legitimate hail damage? In Minnesota, you have the right to an insurance appraisal process, which may incur an out-of-pocket cost. For more information on this go to the following Minnesota State Commerce Department link: https://mn.gov/commerce/consumers/your-home/protect/dic/settling-claims/ Be aware that this can be a long process. We also recommend consulting an attorney for their opinion.
Sometimes people just don’t want the hassle of having to replace their roof and seek to avoid filing an insurance claim. Those folks will want to put on the best roof they can afford. For those folks, the tenth thing you want to know about hail damage is that the risk can be greatly reduced with very high-end, hail-resistant roofing materials. Many roofing materials these days are highly hail resistant, and you may even be able to get a discount on your insurance premiums. Contact your agent for more details. A recent “Star Tribune” article discusses roofing-resistant materials: https://www.startribune.com/the-hail-proof-house-these-minnesotans-are-working-on-it/600115826/
If you need a roofing inspection Lindstrom can refer you to some trusted contractor partners who will conduct them for free. Contact Larry Borgen of our staff for assistance on this at 763-238-8125 or Lborgen@firerepair.com For help on any water, storm, or fire issue, call Lindstrom Restoration 24/7/365 at 763-544-8761.