Homeowners insurance covers your home and belongings against several different perils, including fire damage. That means if your home is damaged in an electrical fire, chimney fire, or any other cause of accidental fire damage, homeowners insurance can reimburse you for the loss.
If your house is severely damaged by a fire and you need to live somewhere else temporarily, your policy can also cover your relocation expenses, temporary lodging, and other additional living expenses until your home is completely repaired or rebuilt.
How does homeowners insurance cover fire damage?
A standard homeowners insurance policy includes several types of coverages that can help reduce the financial blow of a destructive house fire, including:
Dwelling coverage: If a fire destroys your home, your policy’s dwelling coverage can pay to rebuild it. This section of your policy can also cover the cost of cleanup and debris removal after the disaster.
Other structures coverage: If the blaze finds its way to your shed, detached garage, or another separate structure on your property, your policy’s other structures coverage can reimburse you for the damage.
Personal property coverage: Your policy’s personal property coverage can pay to replace your belongings (furniture, appliances, electronics) that are destroyed in a fire. If your clothes or other items are smoke damaged, that would be covered as well.
Loss of use coverage: If you’re unable to live in your home after a fire, your policy’s loss of use coverage can help cover your temporary living expenses while you’re away. This coverage typically extends to things like hotel stays, pet boarding expenses, relocation costs, and any other increased living costs.
Liability coverage: If a fire on your property damages your neighbor's home or any part of their property, your policy's personal liability coverage may be able to pay your neighbor for the damage.
Consider extended replacement cost for an added layer of protection for your home
Homeowners insurance is designed to cover expensive disasters. But in certain cases — either if you’re underinsured or due to circumstances outside of your control — your dwelling coverage limit may not be high enough to pay for a full rebuild.
For increased protection for your home and your own general peace of mind, consider adding extended replacement cost to your policy for an additional cost. When your home’s rebuild cost exceeds your dwelling coverage limit, extended replacement cost automatically increases your coverage an additional 25% to 50% — whichever amount you choose.
What types of fire damage does homeowners insurance cover?
Homeowners insurance covers most causes of fire and smoke damage, including electrical fires, fires caused by unattended cooking, candle fires, and any other accidental fires.
If your fireplace or wood stove causes an unexpected chimney fire, you’ll most likely be covered for repairs. Just make sure you keep your fireplace in good condition and clear of obvious hazards — homeowners insurance generally won’t cover losses caused by neglect or poor maintenance.
Homeowners insurance covers damage caused by artificial electronic currents, including power surge damage. So if your electrical wiring short circuits and causes your home to go up in flames, that would likely be covered.
If your home is damaged by a raging wildfire, homeowners insurance will likely cover the loss. But if you live in an area prone to wildfires, your insurance company may deny you coverage. In that case, you may need to purchase a separate fire insurance policy.
If a fire breaks out due to a lit candle, unattended cooking, or a dry Christmas tree, your homeowners insurance will likely cover the damage.
Not all causes of fire damage are covered
Homeowners insurance does not cover intentional damage, so if you or a family member intentionally burn your house down, you won’t be reimbursed for the damage. A standard policy also won’t cover fire damage caused by nuclear hazards, poor maintenance, or regular wear and tear.
What happens when you file a house fire claim?
Homeowners insurance covers most causes of fire damage, but some claims processes can be smoother than others. One homeowner we spoke with was able to get paid out right away by her insurance company.
Teresa Maida and her family had lived in their two-story home in a wooded area of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, for nearly two decades before disaster struck in 2014. What seemed like a normal installation of a temporary 220 line (a common electrical line used as a source of power in residential homes) resulted in their home’s electrical panel catching fire.
But luckily for Maida, her insurance company quickly took action.
“Our homeowners insurance company was really good. Right away they sent us an initial $10,000 check to get back on our feet while the claim was being processed,” said Maida.
When it became clear that Maida’s home had been damaged to the point that it was going to be unsafe for them to remain there while the repairs were made, their home insurance company helped them stay somewhere else.
“Our insurer put us up in a hotel. The hotel had a little kitchenette and they booked us two rooms, which is all we needed. We stayed there for about three weeks,” she said.
3 fire insurance claim tips
Fortunately, Maida was able to get paid out for her fire claim almost immediately. Here are a few things she learned throughout the process that helped expedite her homeowners insurance claim:
Contact your insurer immediately. Most insurance companies require you to report the loss “as soon as reasonably possible” — otherwise you might not be covered or could see a delay in having your claim processed.
Document everything. You’ll need to fill out a “proof of loss” form with a description, date of purchase, and value of each damaged item. Along with written documentation, consider taking photos and videos of the damage.
Track your temporary living expenses. If you need to live elsewhere while your home is being rebuilt or repaired, make sure to hold onto lodging and restaurant receipts so that you can be reimbursed for these expenses.