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By Elaine Yang
Updated on May 11, 2022
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff, Staff Editor.
Yes, in most cases, renters insurance will reimburse you for fire damage that destroys your belongings and help pay for additional living costs should your home become temporarily unlivable.
Whether it be leaving a candle unattended, forgetting to turn off a hair straightener, or even burning something while you cook, accidents happen. Still, having a fire break out in your home is inherently stressful—not to mention the costly damage to your personal belongings.
As a car and home insurance expert, Jerry knows how catastrophic home emergencies can be. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to fire damage and renters insurance for tenants.
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When does renters insurance cover fire damage?
A standard renters insurance policy will cover damage to your personal belongings if a fire starts accidentally in the unit, in the building, or as a result of a natural disaster or lightning strike. Your coverage usually includes smoke damage.
First, let’s take a step back and review what renters insurance is.
What is renters insurance?
When you rent a home or apartment, it’s recommended that you purchase a renters insurance policy. The purpose of this policy is to cover costs that result from unexpected incidents, such as fire and smoke damage, a break-in, or a burst pipe.
The particular incidents covered by your insurance policy are called covered (or named) perils.
If your policy does not have covered perils, you may have purchased an all-risk policy, which means that all perils are covered unless explicitly excluded. Check with your insurance agent if you’re not sure what your policy covers.
Note that renters insurance won’t cover damages to the building itself—that’s the responsibility of your landlord’s insurance.
What does renters insurance cover?
If you suffer a fire in your rental unit, your renters insurance policy will reimburse the costs of any damage done to your personal property or belongings, smoke damage, pending personal liability claims, and additional living costs incurred as a result of the fire. No matter how the fire was started, damage done to your personal belongings will be covered—unless you started the fire intentionally.
|Type of Loss||Is it covered under renters insurance?||Notes|
|Structural Damage||No—Structural damage is covered under your landlord’s insurance policy||----|
|Smoke Damage||Yes||Ask your provider about smoke damage, as some instances of smoke damage may not be covered under your policy|
|High-end goods (e.g. Jewelry, electronics, etc.)||Maybe—depending on your coverage, high-end goods may require additional add-ons or endorsements||------|
|Personal Property||Yes—Damage done to personal belongings, like clothes, furniture, and other items, is eligible subject to your coverage limit||Damage exceeding your coverage limit may not be recoverable|
|Personal Liability||Yes—If you incur costs regarding damage done to other people’s property or medical bills, renters insurance may cover your expenses||Damage exceeding your coverage limit may not be recoverable|
|Miscellaneous Living Expenses||Yes—If the damage renders your home unlivable, additional costs like hotel bills are typically covered||-----|
|Natural disasters||Yes—If another peril, like a lightning strike, starts a fire in your home, renters insurance will cover the costs associated with the damage||------|
|Mandatory evictions||Yes—If a wildfire threatens your neighborhood and your are instructed to evacuate your home, renters insurance will cover any damage caused by the fire||------|
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Fire damage done to your personal property
As a fire can be highly destructive and unpredictable, it is likely that your personal belongings will be damaged or ruined. To cover some of these repair or replacement costs, you’ll need to file a claim with your renters insurance policy.
However, keep in mind that your reimbursement may be limited due to coverage limits. Make sure to check with your coverage provider to gauge what limits you may be subject to. Your policy limits for personal property damage recovery are listed in your policy declarations page.
The damage amount must also exceed your deductible if you want to file a claim with your insurance. A deductible is an agreed-upon amount that you’ll need to pay after an incident, and the insurance company will cover the rest of your costs.
For example, if you have a deductible of $600 and a fire destroys a $3,000 bed frame and mattress, your insurance company will pay out $2,400.
Note that renters insurance will cover fire damage done to your personal property even if the fire did not start within your living space (say it originated in your neighbor’s unit).
Pro Tip If your belongings are not inside your home at the time of the fire and they get damaged, your policy will still cover those costs (e.g., patio furniture that was also burned).
Personal liability and fire damage
Sometimes, a fire may start in your unit accidentally and spread to other units. This may result in injury to others or damage to other people’s property. You may be liable for medical bills, a neighbor’s damaged belongings, and the like.
Renters insurance will cover the costs associated with your personal liability as long as you can prove the fire was an accident.
However, if you negligently start a fire (which could happen if you leave your stove unattended or carelessly throw away a lit match), your landlord’s insurance provider may come to you for reimbursement. Having renters insurance will protect you from some of these costs, such as legal costs, but are often subject to limits.
Loss of use costs: miscellaneous living expenses
If a fire damages your home to the point where it is unlivable, you are eligible to recover from your renters insurance under loss of use coverage. Whether it be hotel bills or gas costs due to a longer commute to work, your policy will reimburse you subject to the amount of coverage you have purchased.
Be sure to check with your provider before making alternate living arrangements to ensure your costs will be covered.
What fire damage is not covered by renters insurance?
While many things are covered under your renters insurance, some situations may be excluded from your policy. Check with your insurance provider to be sure.
- If you started the fire intentionally: If you started the fire intentionally or committed arson, your damages will not be covered under renters insurance.
- Damage to the unit itself: Damage to the structure of your rental unit (i.e., walls, doors, plumbing) is not covered under renters insurance. Instead, these costs are covered under your landlord’s insurance policy.
- Damage to your car: Although your car may be damaged within your home (say, in your garage), any damage done to your car will not be covered by your renters insurance, but by your car insurance policy. However, renters insurance may help you pay to replace damaged personal items that were sitting inside the car.
How to file a fire damage claim
To file a claim for fire damage in your rental unit, follow these steps:
- Take pictures of your damaged property and take note of what caused it. Supplement pictures of the items in their original condition if you have them.
- Call your insurance provider as soon as possible and tell them you’d like to file a claim (failing to contact them within a certain period so may result in your claim being denied).
- If your home is unlivable, contact your insurance provider before you leave. This will ensure that you receive reimbursements for your ensuing expenses.
- Stay in communication with your agent to monitor the process of your claim payout and be ready to answer any follow-up questions.
What can you do to prevent fire damage in a rental unit?
While some fires may be unavoidable, there are easy things you can do to minimize your home or apartment’s risk of fire damage.
- Talk with your landlord about protective appliances: If your unit does not have working smoke detectors or sprinklers, reach out to your landlord right away. These devices may alert you to any potential fires and help extinguish them before they become unmanageable, minimizing the damage caused.
- Have a fire extinguisher ready: For smaller fires, a fire extinguisher will be a helpful tool to prevent excess damage. If your landlord won’t provide one for the unit, you can find an extinguisher at most major hardware stores.
How to find affordable renters insurance
With all of the benefits that come with having a renters insurance policy, you won’t want to go without one. (Plus, they’re usually super cheap—in the range of $10-15 a month!)
If you’re not sure how to find the best renters insurance quotes, comparison app Jerry can do all the hard work for you.
As a licensed insurance broker, Jerry offers you support from start to finish, finding you competitive and affordable options from top name-brand providers and taking care of all the pesky paperwork.
When you’ve identified a policy you like and you’re ready to switch plans, Jerry can even contact your provider and cancel your old policy so you don’t have to.
“Jerry was wonderful! I used it for my auto and renters policies. I trusted it so much that I signed up my homeowners insurance under Jerry as well. All of the agents are amazingly nice and knowledgeable.” —Mary Y.
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Is fire insurance the same as renters insurance?
In most cases, coverage for fire damage is a part of your standard renters insurance policy. Some insurance providers will also offer separate “fire insurance” policies if you need to purchase additional coverage.
Does renters insurance cover explosion damage?
Yes, renters insurance covers explosion damage to your personal belongings. If the structure of the unit or the building itself is damaged in an explosion, your landlord’s insurance policy will cover those costs.