What Minnesota Homeowners Need to Know About Building Code Upgrade Coverage
Homeowners insurance should cover a roof repair or replacement for damage caused by a covered event.
But what if the insurance policy only covers the “damaged portion” of your roof?
And what happens if your roof isn’t up to code?
Unfortunately, you will likely end up liable and have to pay a lot of money out of pocket. This is especially true in states like Minnesota where contractors are required to meet building code minimums, regardless of insurance coverage.
A similar scenario happened after a storm damaged a church in St. Paul, MN.
St. Matthews Church of God and Christ v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company
In 2017, St. Matthews Church of God and Christ was damaged by a storm. The church’s insurer, State Farm, agreed to remove and replace the damaged drywall. However, cracks in the masonry were discovered behind the drywall when it was removed. The City of St. Paul wouldn’t allow a building permit for the drywall without first bringing the masonry to building code requirements.
St. Matthews requested State Farm to fix the masonry, but the insurer denied coverage because the policy only covers the damaged portion of the property and claimed the cracks preexisted in the storm. St. Matthews fought this, stating the masonry and drywall were part of a single damaged structure, the wall. Similar to the roof and roof decking, which State Farm agreed to replace as well.
The lawsuit made its way up to the Minnesota Supreme Court and sided with State Farm. The majority stated that the masonry damage was not caused by the storm and therefore not covered by the State Farm policy. But the minority raised valid concerns, including how this ruling may “encourage insurers to adopt an infinitely narrow view of “the damaged portion of the property”… and seek to divide a single structural element of a building into increasingly smaller parts and subparts and sub-subparts.”
What does this mean for you?
This ruling emphasizes the importance of understanding what your homeowners insurance policy does and does not cover.
To avoid a scenario like this, you may want building code upgrade coverage, especially if you have an older home.
What are building codes?
Building codes are regulations written by state and local governments that govern the design, construction, repair, and renovation of buildings and homes.
Building codes are important because they protect occupants from hazards inside and outside, like earthquakes and electrical fires.
What happens if your home isn’t up to code?
Building codes are constantly revised to ensure occupants’ safety. It’s common for older homes to have features that aren’t up to code, such as roof decking or bathroom exhaust fans.
As long as the home is safe to live in, it’s usually not a problem… until there is a problem.
Generally, standard homeowners insurance will only restore your home’s existing structure to its original state in a covered loss. If that damaged structure isn’t up to the current building code, you may have to pay the difference if your government requires you to upgrade it. In Minnesota, licensed contractors are required to meet building codes.
That’s why building code coverage exists.
What is building code upgrade coverage?
Building code coverage is an endorsement you can add to homeowners insurance for an additional premium. It helps cover additional costs of repairing your home up to code in a covered loss.
To get building code coverage, ask your homeowners insurance company if they offer it or shop around for an insurer that does.
Will building code coverage bring my home up to code?
Not exactly. Just because your home isn’t up to code, doesn’t mean building code coverage will pay to upgrade it.
Similar to your base policy, there needs to be an event or circumstance you’re insured against that causes property damage. Then the building code rider will apply to that covered damage, offsetting costs to bring it up to code. But it will not fix other out-of-code features in your home that are not part of the covered damaged property.
Here’s a real-life scenario we experience often at Bold North Roofing & Contracting:
A homeowner’s roof is damaged in a covered event, such as a fallen tree or storm. The insurance company agrees to repair the roof. When our team begins the repair, we notice the roof decking isn’t up to code.
Roof decking or roof sheathing is the flat surface that lies between your roof framing (joists and trusses) and the waterproof layers (shingles or other roofing materials). It carries a lot of weight and provides additional protection, so it needs to be strong. That’s why many building codes set requirements for the thickness of decking.
In Minnesota, we cannot repair the roof to its existing condition if any component of the roof is not up to code. We must upgrade it, regardless of insurance coverage. That means the homeowner is responsible for paying the difference out of pocket if they don’t have building code coverage.
Is my roof up to code?
The best way to tell if your roof is up to code is to hire a local roofing professional for an inspection. If you’re located in Minnesota, contact Bold North Roofing & Contracting for an inspection.
Many of our customers have added building code coverage after reviewing their policy and receiving an inspection.
If you’ve experienced property damage, we will also help determine if you will qualify for an insurance claim. Then we will work directly with your insurance adjuster to ensure all damage is properly assessed, claim approved, and your roof properly repaired or replaced.
A roof inspection can also help you better budget for a non-insured roof repair or replacement if you need to bring your roof up to code.
Our licensed roofing contractors offer residential and commercial roofing services throughout Minnesota, including Minneapolis, Albertville, Andover, Afton, Brooklyn Park, Blaine, Bloomington, Eagan, Lakeville, Minnetonka, Plymouth, Wayzata, and Woodbury.