House fire (Photo: @maginnis via Twenty20)

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Smoke Damage?

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House fire (Photo: @maginnis via Twenty20)
If you’ve had a fire in your home, your homeowners insurance will clearly state whether or not you have coverage. In almost all instances, you do. But what happens when there’s damage that isn’t caused by the flame but from the smoke instead?
For home insurance, you can’t always count on the adage of “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” Find out what’s typically covered when you have smoke damage, how to tell if you have coverage, and tips to file your insurance claim.

Do I have insurance coverage for smoke damage?

Under most insurance policies, smoke damage is a covered peril. However, that isn’t true for every home insurance provider.
House fires are one of the most common causes of a total loss claim, but when a fire is minor, the damage could be largely from smoke. Knowing how you’re covered and to what extent is a matter of completely understanding your own insurance policy.
Dust off your insurance policy from your safe or filing cabinet and take a read through it. Is smoke damage specifically addressed as a covered peril, or is an exclusion expressly written into it? If smoke damage is a listed peril, then what are the limitations for coverage?
You may need to ask your insurance provider for supporting documentation to clarify any questions that remain after you read your policy.

What’s typically covered by homeowners insurance for smoke damage

How the smoke damage is remediated can be an issue since the effects aren’t always visible, and the impact on your belongings and on your home’s structure can be permanent if they aren’t cleaned properly. Some items are obviously going to need to be replaced while others can be restored to their previous condition.
Because insurance companies benefit by spending less on your claim, you may find your adjuster errs on the side of cleaning rather than replacement for smoke-damaged belongings. Porous surfaces like wood, fabric, and even stone can be permanently discolored and always retain the smoky odor. You may find that you need to stand your ground after the smoke damage remediation is completed and demand replacement for certain items.
Also, smoke damage services like estimating the extent of damage, deodorizing, and a thorough HVAC system cleaning are often necessary but may not be covered by your policy.

Tips to file an insurance claim for smoke damage

If you need to make an insurance claim on your homeowners insurance for smoke damage, you might have a tough time ensuring all your bases are covered. Your adjuster will help you through the process, but here are five tips to help you with your smoke damage claim:
Immediately contact your insurance provider after the loss occurs. Time is of the essence as smoke damage can become permanent if left too long on items that would otherwise be able to be cleaned.
Check your policy’s declarations page to find out what you’re responsible for in the claim. Typically, you’ll have to pay a deductible.
Document the damage. Without disturbing the scene, take photos and video so you can provide proof if anything is in question later.
Get a smoke damage remediation estimate. Professional cleaners and remediation services can quickly attend to provide estimates for your insurer so you can proceed with a claim quickly.
Collect all the relevant data. While it’s fresh, write down the date and time of the loss, where it originated and what became damaged, the property owner’s info if it isn’t you, your contact information, a copy of the police report, and any estimates you can provide to your insurer.
By providing as complete a profile as possible, your adjuster can proceed with the claim in a timely fashion, hopefully saving more of your precious belongings along the way.