What Is Fire Insurance?

Definition & Examples of Fire Insurance

Firefighter spraying water at a house fire

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Fire insurance is a property coverage that pays for damages to property and other losses you may suffer from a fire. It covers the cost of repairing or replacing damaged property in your home, along with the costs of accommodations while your home is unusable.

In 2019, The National Fire Protection Association reported an average of over 354,400 house fires each year. Although fire coverage is included in most homeowners insurance policies, there are certain exclusions to coverage. It's important to know what your coverage includes and what your options are for protecting your biggest investment—your home.

What Is Fire Insurance?

Fire insurance is a type of insurance coverage that is typically included in your homeowners insurance policy and covers the costs of damages to your property due to a fire. This coverage also includes your personal belongings and any expenses for lodging and meals above and beyond your normal living expenses, up to the policy limits. As part of your homeowners policy, it's subject to the same deductible and coverage limits as the rest of your policy.

Any detached structures located on your property such as any sheds, fences, or detached garages are also covered by most homeowners insurance policies. Some policies will also help pay for landscaping costs such as damage to trees and shrubs.

If you live in a rental property, your landlord's insurance will cover the costs of any property damage from a fire. But you are still on the hook for your personal possessions. To cover those, you'll need a renters insurance policy.

How Fire Insurance Works

In the event of a fire on your property, you'll need to file a claim with your insurance company in order to get damages covered. Be sure to take pictures of all damaged property in order to document everything for your claim. The company will send a claims adjuster to your house to assess the damage. Verify their identity when they arrive—as scams are not uncommon—and walk the adjuster through your property to make sure they see everything.

When you receive an estimate from your insurer, be careful to review everything and compare it to your policy to make sure it matches the coverage you paid for.

What Does Fire Insurance Not Cover?

Your homeowners insurance policy will pay for damage to your home up to the policy limits for fire damage. Most policies exclude damage caused by war, nuclear radiation, and other associated perils. If the homeowner deliberately sets their home on fire it will not be covered. Fire damage to a vacant home is also not covered if the home was vacant for more than 30 consecutive days at the time of the fire. A “vacant homeowners insurance policy” can be purchased if you need to cover a vacant home.

Depending on where you live, your policy may exclude fire coverage for other events or charge higher premiums. If you live in an area at high risk of wildfires, for instance, you may be subject to certain limitations. With the increase in wildfires in recent years, it's especially important to check this aspect of your policy.

You can purchase additional fire insurance above and beyond your homeowners policy to cover damages that your standard homeowners policy does not.

If your car or other vehicle is destroyed or damaged due to a fire at your home, this is not covered by homeowners insurance. The cost of fire damage to your car is paid for by the comprehensive portion of your auto insurance policy. If you only have liability auto insurance coverage, damage to your car during a home fire is not covered.

Replacement Cost vs. Actual Cash Value

It is important to know if your insurance policy pays actual cash value (ACV) or replacement cost for property damaged during a fire. If you only have ACV coverage through your homeowners insurance, this may not be enough to replace the items you lost in a fire at today’s market value. Sometimes you can add an optional endorsement to your policy to cover the replacement cost.

Actual cash value vs, replacement cost is also an important consideration when it comes to rebuilding your home. The cost to rebuild may be significantly greater than the home’s actual cash value. The replacement cost option will allow you to replace your damaged items with a new item of similar quality and cost, but your premium will be higher.

Fire Insurance for Business Owners

Fire damage to a business is typically covered in the basic business owner’s policy. This includes damage to your business building, attached and detached structures, office equipment, and inventory. Most business owner’s insurance policies will also pay for additional operating expenses if you must move your business operations to a temporary location. It is important to keep an up-to-date inventory of business equipment and other valuable business items. You should also keep important documents off site, so they are not destroyed in a fire.

Do I Need Fire Insurance?

Your home is one of your most important investments, and homeowners insurance (including fire insurance) protects you from a financial disaster. If you have a mortgage, your lender will require you to purchase homeowners insurance, but it's a good idea to have it even if you own your home free and clear. Unless you can cover the costs of rebuilding your home out and replacing your possessions of pocket, homeowners insurance is a must. Just make sure your policy includes fire coverage.

Key Takeaways

  • Fire insurance is usually included in your homeowners insurance policy but can be purchased as a separate or additional policy if needed.
  • It covers damages to your home, personal possessions, and some other aspects of your property, along with some additional costs of lodging and food during repairs.
  • Coverage limits and deductibles will be the same amounts as what you have chosen for the rest of your homeowners insurance policy.
  • Standard fire insurance does not cover arson, certain acts of war, or properties that have been vacant more than 30 days.