An Unexpected Lapse in Insurance Coverage Puts This Homeowner in a Bind

Jessica Clark didn’t realize she’d have to pay out of pocket for bringing work done on her home up to code. Here’s how she dealt with it.

Written by Lindsey Danis / January 11, 2022

Quick Bites

  • Building codes dictate how homes should be built. Since they change over time, homes that were built up to code may no longer meet building codes due to new changes.
  • When you are renovating or repairing your home, you may need to make updates to bring the home up to code. This cost typically is the homeowner’s responsibility, not the insurer’s.
  • Some insurers offer optional coverage called building code insurance, where the insurer pays to bring the property up to code when making repairs for covered claims.
  • When purchasing homeowners insurance, ask if there’s any specific coverage you should add on, such as coverage to protect against natural hazards like hurricanes, winds or floods.
Family in front of their home.
Jessica Clark, here with her family, got the roof of her home fixed, but not without some headaches.

Homeowners insurance might be the one thing you buy and hope you never need. But should “the worst” happen and you wind up filing a claim, you also hope that the insurance company will cover it quickly. But as 35-year-old Jessica Clark, a wife and mother who runs the gluten-free food blog Gluten Free Supper, found out, getting a homeowners insurance claim paid has its hitches. 

After Clark’s Lincoln, Nebraska, home suffered roof damage from a summer storm, she filed a claim. While everything seemed straightforward during the adjuster’s visit, getting the claim paid out turned into a big back-and-forth between the insurer and the roofer, with Clark stuck in the middle. The problem: an additional charge for bringing the work up to current building code that Clark’s insurance didn’t cover. 

Clark was able to work things out in the end, but the incident changed the way she approached her homeowners insurance policy—and she has some lessons learned for other homeowners. 

It started with a knock on the door

“We didn’t even realize we had damage,” says Clark, referring to the time after an intense summer wind and hail storm. Nothing looked amiss from ground level, but a local roofing company was going door to door offering to check things out. Clark agreed to a roof inspection. The roofing company found there was damage to the roof, but not to the windows or the siding. 

Clark’s homeowners insurance policy had a $1,000 deductible. “We figured it would make more sense to file a claim and only pay $1,000 than try to pay out of pocket” to fix the roof, Clark explains. So after getting the roofer’s report, she called Allstate, the insurance company she’d had since she and her husband purchased their home in 2017.

The claims process went smoothly–at first

Once Clark filed a claim, Allstate sent out an adjuster. 

Adjusters are sort of like detectives when it comes to insurance claims. They visit the site (Clark’s home), check out the scene of the damage, and review the estimate from the contractor (in this case, the roofing company). 

The adjuster may take photos or videos, gather statements from witnesses, or take any other steps that would help the insurance company evaluate the claim. Using this information, the insurance company can then determine how much they will pay to cover the loss.[1] 

Ideally, the insurance company will deem the contractor’s estimate to be fair and agree to pay the entire sum. If the insurance company disagrees with the contractor’s estimate, problems can arise getting the claim paid out. 

In Clark’s case, this phase went smoothly. Because there was so much damage to the shingles, the entire roof of the house needed to be replaced.  Allstate’s adjuster surveyed the roof, felt the estimate was fair, and green-lighted the repair.

The roofing work, though, went less smoothly. “The roofing company kept putting it off,” says Clark, and it wasn’t until the fall that the roof was finally fixed. “I was never sure when they were coming, and one day I woke up to loud banging,” Clark recalls. “They completed the work and we waited to hear back from Allstate that everything had been paid.”

Extra charges weren’t covered by Clark’s policy

Allstate and the roofer were in agreement about the quote going into the roof repair. Then the roofer needed to purchase more shingles than they estimated, says Clark. There was also a building code issue that needed to be resolved.  

Building codes are sets of standards that dictate how homes should be built. Since building codes change over time, homes that were built up to code may no longer meet building codes due to new changes. So when you are renovating or repairing your home, you may need to make updates to bring the home back up to code. As the Insurance Information Institute explains, it typically falls to the homeowners to pay to bring the home up to code, rather than the insurance company, even when it’s a covered issue.[2]

Yet, some insurers, including Allstate, offer optional insurance coverage that protects you against these sorts of unexpected costs. It’s called building code insurance, and it means the insurer pays to bring the property up to code when making repairs for covered claims.[3] 

Clark didn’t have this coverage on her policy, and she wishes the insurance company had made her aware of that coverage in advance. “Apparently the building code add-on is $10 to $20 a month, so if I would have known, it would have saved a huge headache,” says Clark.

The roofer demanded the extra $3,000 to cover the extra shingles and the cost of bringing the roof up to code. Allstate didn’t want to pay for the building code upgrade. Neither did Clark, who believed the roofer didn’t handle the issue well. Clark thought the roofer should have mentioned this factor when they provided the quote, and they should have included the cost of addressing the building code issue in the estimate. Instead, “they did not make us aware of that until after the roof work was complete,” Clark says, which was, essentially, when they sent a bill.

She was also upset by the roofer’s  lack of communication. The roofer “kept putting off” the work without explanation. Clark was “never sure when they were coming,” and one day woke up to the sound of hammers banging.  

During this back and forth, “communication with Allstate was pretty good,” Clark says. “I talked to the insurance adjuster quite often. We were both in agreement that the roofing company was not doing a good job. We finally figured out together that it was nothing Allstate was doing, it was the roofing company not following proper procedures.” 

Clark and an Allstate representative eventually got the roofing company manager on the phone. “After speaking to their supervisors, they realized they were in the wrong and decided to comp the extra payment,” Clark explains.

Advice for homeowners

While Clark says it’s normal practice where she lives for roofing companies to go house to house to offer to assess damage after a storm, this can be a red flag that you’re going to be scammed, warns the Better Business Bureau.[4]

Roofers who go door to door with an offer of free inspection may scam homeowners by causing roof damage while they’re on the roof checking things out. Or they may pass off a photo of another homeowner’s roof when trying to sell you their services. 

Rather than accepting the unsolicited offer of help, the Better Business Bureau suggests researching reputable roofing companies near you and having them do a roof inspection. They also recommend having an adjuster come out before any paperwork is signed to make sure all sides are in agreement about the scope of work. 

After her troubles getting the claim paid, Clark added the building code coverage to her policy. She didn’t want to worry about paying out of pocket for code issues in the future. 

When Clark purchased a new home, she switched to a smaller Allstate subsidiary to save money—but she kept the building code coverage on her policy. Clark says, “Allstate was good with the roof claim,” but wishes she’d been made aware of the building code coverage when shopping for insurance. 

“Make sure you have the right amount of coverage,” Clark advises. Rather than accept the baseline coverage offered, Clark suggests you “ask if there’s anything specific to your state they suggest you add on,” such as coverage to protect against specific natural hazards like hurricanes, winds or floods.

Article Sources
  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators,”
  2. Insurance Information Institute, “How much homeowners insurance do I need?”
  3. Allstate, “What Is Building Code Insurance?”
  4. Better Business Bureau, “BBB Scam Alert: Watch out for ‘free roof inspections,’”

About the Author

Lindsey Danis

Lindsey Danis

Lindsey Danis is a writer covering food, travel and personal finance. She's written about personal finance for Business Insider, NextAdvisor, The Penny Hoarder, and elsewhere.

Full bio

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