Lag on Roof Repairs Leaves Property Owners Doubly Exposed

Every year, thousands of hailstorms cause billions of dollars in damage to buildings, vehicles and crops throughout the U.S. Between 2011 and 2016, hailstorms and wind damage accounted for 40% of all insured losses, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

And hail’s impact is only getting worse. From 1997 to 2006, FM Global’s clients lost about $32 million per year on average. Between 2009 and 2018, costs jumped to $130 million a year, according to data supplied by the insurer.

In 2017, Colorado saw the most expensive hailstorm in its history when baseball-sized stones rained down on Denver, causing $2.3 billion in damage. A year later, in 2018, State Farm paid more than $2.7 billion for more than 280,000 hail damage claims.

Typically, the roof of a property sees the most impact from a hailstorm. No surprise, then, that in the first three months following the average hailstorm, roof maintenance increases 247% compared to the year prior, according to BuildFax, a property intelligence company.

When BuildFax analyzed five severe hailstorms over the past three years in Minnesota, Colorado and Texas, it found that the average recovery time is more than five months. This long period may exacerbate the issues hail poses to property owners.

“When you have such an influx of one specific type of damage, timelines for repairs get really drawn out, and that’s when I worry about the severity of the claim going up,” says Holly Tachovsky, CEO, BuildFax. “If the roof fails, the structure will fail, and if you have an already compromised roof on a structure during thunderstorm season, you get compounding problems.”

As more storms loom throughout the season—and with roofing contractors unavailable to make repairs—homeowners risk repeated property damage, escalating claims and, in some cases, drastic measures.

“In communities where we saw two consecutive years of recovery from hail damage, there is a very tight supply market for repairs,” Tachovsky says. “When it’s harder and more expensive to get that work completed, I worry more and more about homeowners not getting the work completed at all.”

Some property owners might even resort to going up on the roof themselves, stapling down some shingles and calling it a job done, Tachovsky points out.

In those instances, “the roof is still compromised, the property has not been made whole and you go into the next hail season or even into the next storm looking at a very high likelihood of another claim,” Tachovsky explains. “And it could potentially be an even more severe claim.”

Will Jones is IA senior editor.