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You know your homeowner’s insurance covers fire damage, including smoke damage, within your home. But when your neighbor’s home goes up in flames, the smoke can enter your home and wreak havoc. In such a case, the question arises: Does homeowner’s insurance cover smoke damage from a neighbor’s fire?
The good news is that your homeowner’s policy does not discriminate about which fire caused damage to your home. So, the short answer is that homeowner’s insurance covers smoke damage from a neighbor’s fire under qualified circumstances. There are, however, some limitations to the breadth of coverage.
Qualifying circumstances for homeowner’s insurance to cover smoke damage
The good news is that nearly all fire and smoke damage is covered under a standard homeowner’s insurance policy. There are few gray areas, but it does not matter if the fire occurred in your home or another nearby building. Only one situation nullifies homeowner’s insurance coverage in connection with fire damage: If a fire is deliberately caused by the homeowner, then insurance will not pay for the damage.
So, if your neighbor burns her own house down, her homeowner’s insurance won’t cover the cost of repairs or replacement. For your house next door and smoke damage, this falls into a gray area. Still, since the fire was not your fault, your homeowner’s is likely to still pay to fix the smoke damage from a neighbor’s fire in your home.
What will homeowner’s insurance pay for connected with smoke damage?
While every homeowner’s policy is unique, standard homeowner’s insurance covers smoke damage in relation to the following things:
- Smoke damage to walls and other structural elements within home.
- Smoke damage to other structures, such as fences and sheds.
- Damage from smoke to personal property, such as clothing or electronics.
- Additional living expenses if home is uninhabitable due to smoke damage from neighbor’s fire.
- Medical costs associated with smoke inhalation.
The amount homeowner’s insurance will pay for smoke damage from a neighbor’s fire depends on the limits of your policy and severity of the situation. Check your policy’s language to see the maximums that can be paid for different categories of smoke damage. If you still lack clarity, contact your homeowner’s insurance agent to discuss your policy.
How to file a claim for smoke damage from a neighbor’s fire
Once authorities have deemed your home safe, it is advisable to take photos of the smoke damage. Clearly, you cannot photograph smoke smell, but there are often visible indicators that smoke has sullied your home. Smoke can discolor walls and varnishes. It can leave residues on surfaces. Use a camera of good quality to capture the nuances of smoke damage in your home.
Contact your homeowner’s insurance agent to begin a claim. Describe what happened, and provide the photos that you took. If you have out-of-pocket expenses, such as motel stays due to an uninhabitable home, keep your receipts and provide copies to your insurance agent as well.
Your agent will likely arrange an inspection of the damage in conjunction with a claims adjuster and require quotes to repair the damage. Be sure to determine if you are responsible for arranging quotes or if the insurance company will handle those details. Once the claims adjuster has a clear idea of what happened and the costs to put your home right, your homeowner’s insurance company will cover the smoke damage from your neighbor’s fire.