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How Do I Submit an Insurance Claim After a House Fire?

Accidents and natural disasters happen, and that’s why having homeowners insurance is essential. 

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) identifies five primary causes of house fires:

  1. Cooking
  2. Heating
  3. Electrical distribution and lighting equipment
  4. Intentional fire setting
  5. Smoking materials

Cooking is the cause of most home fires and injuries, while smoking is responsible for most deaths caused by house fires. House fires can range from minor kitchen fires to total losses and can be disruptive or life-changing events. 

House fire insurance is designed to help you recover these losses.

What Should I Do After a Fire in My Home?

A house fire can be an incredibly distressing event for any homeowner, and even a small fire can cause significant damage. It’s crucial to act quickly and contact your insurance company as soon as it is safe and practical to do so. They’ll send an adjuster to assess the damage, but there are some important steps to take before their arrival.

  • Document the damage and losses: Take photos and videos of the damaged areas. Create a list of your home’s contents, and make sure it’s easily accessible. Gather any receipts for damaged items if available.
  • Secure the damaged area: Protect your property and prevent further losses. Board up areas open to the outside with plywood. Turn off water pipes and cover items with tarps so the elements can’t get to them.
  • Review your home insurance coverage: Note your deductible, personal property coverage, dwelling coverage, and whether your property coverage is replacement cost or actual cash value. If the damage is so extensive that you cannot stay in your home, review what’s covered under loss of use.

When the adjuster arrives to assess the damage, make sure you are at home to meet them for the walk-through. Your familiarity with the home and its contents may help identify damage that might not be obvious to someone who is there for the first time.

Take notes during your conversation with the adjuster. A house fire—even a small one—can be a traumatic event, and having notes will help you remember important details.

Almost all insurance companies require homeowners who have experienced a fire to take necessary steps to prevent further damage. This may include securing the area, removing standing water, and eliminating saturated carpets to prevent mold and mildew growth.

Will Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Fire Damage?

Homeowners insurance covers damage caused by accidental fires that occur in your home or in other insured structures on your property, such as garages and sheds.

Generally speaking, your insurance will also cover your home if it is damaged or destroyed in a wildfire. However, you should check your policy carefully if you live in an area at high risk for wildfires. Since the risk of wildfires has risen due to extended periods of drought, some insurance companies have determined the liability has become too great and are now excluding wildfires.

Is Smoke Damage Covered by Homeowner’s Insurance?

This distinction is crucial, as your home can experience smoke damage even without direct fire damage. For instance, if a neighbor’s home endures a severe fire and your home is close enough for smoke to damage its exterior or interior, your policy would cover this damage. Furthermore, if a fire occurs in your home, smoke may damage areas not directly impacted by the fire, such as adjacent rooms.

Smoke, soot, and ash damage can also result from wildfires. If you reside in an area prone to large wildfires, review your policy to confirm that it covers smoke damage from such events.

Do I Need to Submit a Renter’s Insurance Claim If I Have a Fire?

If you experience a fire in a home you rent, whether or not you need to submit an insurance claim depends on the extent of the damage and possibly the fire’s cause. Typically, landlord’s insurance covers the structure, while renter’s insurance covers your belongings.

Let’s say an electrical fire started in an outdoor light fixture and damaged a portion of the siding and front door. The fire was contained to the outside of the home, and none of your belongings were affected. In this case, there’s no reason for a renter to file a claim.

However, this is a specific scenario, and even small fires can cause significant damage. A kitchen fire may destroy or damage both your property (pots, pans, dishes) and the landlord’s property (stove, ceiling, fixtures). If the fire was accidental but your fault, such as leaving the stove unattended, your renter’s insurance might need to cover the landlord’s deductible.

Determining which insurance policy—the renter’s or the landlord’s—covers damage from a fire in a rental home can be complex. That’s why it’s so important to purchase renter’s insurance if you rent a home and ensure your landlord has an insurance policy as well.

Is It Expensive to Clean Up a Home After a Fire?

Cleaning up fire and smoke damage in a home can be quite costly. The extent and type of damage significantly influence the repair and replacement costs after a fire.

A deck that catches fire from a deep-fried turkey mishap on Thanksgiving will cost less to replace than a fire that destroys a kitchen, for example. But even cleaning up after even a small fire can cost thousands of dollars. National Catastrophe Restoration Inc. estimates recovery from a small fire will cost between $2,500 to $5,000, while a damaged kitchen can cost $50,000 or more to repair.

What Can I Do to Make My House Safer from Fires?

Here are some tips for how to make your home safer from fires:

  • Install smoke detectors on every level of your home and in bedrooms. Test them frequently to ensure they are in good working order.
  • Develop a fire escape plan with your family and practice it
  •  If you have a multi-story home, consider investing in a collapsible fire escape ladder, which can be purchased at home improvement retailers or online.
  • Use surge protectors for electronics and unplug items that are not in use.
  • Never leave open flames unattended, including candles, stove burners, fireplaces, and grills.
  • Keep flammable items away from heat sources.
  • Consider installing a home security system that can notify the fire department of a fire in your home when you’re not there. Bonus: This, and other smart home devices, may also lead to savings on homeowners insurance*.
  • Have your furnace cleaned and checked annually.
  • Clean dryer vents to prevent clogged vents from overheating and causing fires.
  • Exercise caution with space heaters. Keep flammable materials at least three feet away, turn them off before sleeping, and plug them directly into the wall, as manufacturers advise against using surge protectors due to the risk of overheating and fires.

Where Can I Get a Quote for Homeowners Insurance?

If you are looking for homeowners insurance or you are considering changing your insurance carrier, contact Guaranteed Rate Insurance to start comparing quotes to protect your home. We work with over 50 top-rated insurance carriers to find the right coverage for you at a great rate! 

Disclaimer: *Savings, if any, vary based on the consumer’s profile and other factors. Contact your insurance agent for more information. Restrictions apply.

All information provided in this publication is for informational and educational purposes only, and in no way is any of the content contained herein to be construed as financial, investment, or legal advice or instruction. Guaranteed Rate Insurance does not guarantee the quality, accuracy, completeness or timelines of the information in this publication. While efforts are made to verify the information provided, the information should not be assumed to be error free. Some information in the publication may have been provided by third parties and has not necessarily been verified by Guaranteed Rate Insurance. Guaranteed Rate Insurance, its affiliates and subsidiaries do not assume any liability for the information contained herein, be it direct, indirect, consequential, special, or exemplary, or other damages whatsoever and howsoever caused, arising out of or in connection with the use of this publication or in reliance on the information, including any personal or pecuniary loss, whether the action is in contract, tort (including negligence) or other tortious action.