In 2014, seven people died on average per day in house fires across the U.S., according to the National Fire Protection Association. And with more than 350,000 house fires occurring per year, on average, from 2010 through 2014, the amount of damaged property - not to mention lives - from fire is significant.
And while home insurance cannot protect against loss of human life, having a policy in place can protect your home and any personal belongings within it. But what exactly does your home insurance policy cover when it comes to fire, how much coverage do you need, and is there any kind of fire damage a policy doesn’t cover?
In the following article, Part 1 details what your home insurance policy covers, Part 2 tells you how much coverage you need, and Part 3 talks about the limitations of fire coverage as a part of a home insurance policy.
Part 1 of 3: What fire protection does your home insurance policy provide?
For the most part, a home insurance policy provides protection from fire, weather, theft, and vandalism, among other perils. Most home insurance policies provide some form of protection for fire damage, including the following structures and items.
- Dwelling: A home insurance policy protects the structure of your home. In addition to weather events and damage from falling objects, coverage includes protection from fire and smoke damage.
- Other structures: Your home insurance policy also provides protection for any other structures on your property. This includes fire protection for any detached buildings, such as a garage or shed, or structures such as a fence or landscaping.
- Personal belongings: Your home insurance policy’s fire coverage also extends to your personal belongings, up to a certain amount. To provide additional protection for high-value items, you should consider purchasing additional coverage for those specific items. You should take an inventory of what your house contains to make sure you have adequate coverage.
- Additional living expenses: Many insurance policies also provide for living expenses in the event that your home is damaged or destroyed. The policy pays for alternate lodging while you wait for the rebuilding or repair of your home.
Part 2 of 3: How much home insurance coverage do you need?
The amount of home insurance coverage you need depends primarily on the estimated value of the personal belongings you own and the value of your home. Keep in mind that when purchasing coverage, you can opt to cover the actual cash value of your home, which includes depreciation, or you can opt to cover the replacement cost of your home, which pays for the replacement of your home up to your policy’s limits.
When trying to determine how much coverage you need, keep the following in mind:
- Dwelling: Determine how much it would take to rebuild your house following a fire. You often need to take into account construction costs in your area when determining coverage amounts. You might need to consult with an appraiser to get a better understanding of the true value of your home and its features.
- Personal belongings: While a standard policy usually allows you to recover the value of most items lost in a fire, it usually does not account for more valuable items. So, if you keep highly valuable works of art, musical instruments, jewelry, or other items of high value in your home, consider purchasing additional insurance to cover them if they are lost in a fire.
Part 3 of 3: Limitations of home insurance fire coverage
While home insurance covers many different scenarios when it comes to fire damage, it does not provide coverage for a few specific scenarios, including:
- Arson by the homeowner: Home insurance does not provide coverage for fires deliberately set by the homeowner. In addition to not covering fire damage in this case, arson is also against the law and considered a criminal offense.
- Arson by household member: In addition to a fire deliberately set by the homeowner, a home insurance policy also does not cover damage from a fire set by a member of the homeowner’s household.
- Vacant home: To insure a vacant home, you need to purchase special vacant home insurance. If your home has been vacant for 30 consecutive days or more, a standard home insurance policy does not cover any damage from fire.
While most home insurance policies provide protection from fire and other hazards, some instances are not covered. In the cases of arson or vacancy, most home insurance policies do not provide coverage for fire damage. In addition, to protect more valuable items, you may need to purchase additional insurance coverage.