Does homeowners insurance cover wildfires?

While homeowners insurance covers wildfires, it can be difficult to find affordable coverage if you live in a high-risk wildfire area like California or Texas.

Pat Howard 1600Kara McGinley

By

Pat Howard

Pat Howard

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard is a managing editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where he specializes in homeowners insurance. His work and expertise has been featured in MarketWatch, Real Simple, Fox Business, VentureBeat, This Old House, Investopedia, Fatherly, Lifehacker, Better Homes & Garden, Property Casualty 360, and elsewhere.

&Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is a senior editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

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Key takeaways

  • A standard homeowners insurance policy covers smoke and fire damage caused by wildfires.

  • If your home is destroyed by a wildfire, home insurance can pay to rebuild your home, replace your belongings, and cover temporary living expenses while your house is being rebuilt. 

  • But home insurance is more expensive and difficult to find in residential areas where wildfires are common, including much of California and Texas

How does home insurance cover wildfire damage?

If your home is destroyed by a wildfire, homeowners insurance provides coverage for your home itself, other structures on your property, your landscaping, personal belongings, and additional living expenses if you need to live elsewhere while your home is being repaired. 

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1. The structure of your home

If your home is damaged by a wildfire, your policy’s dwelling coverage can pay to rebuild or repair your house and remediate any smoke damage. If the destruction causes a pile of debris on your property, homeowners insurance can pay to remove it.

Your dwelling coverage limit is the maximum amount your insurance company will pay out for rebuild or repair costs. Because of this, it should be equal to your home’s replacement cost, which is the amount it would cost to rebuild your house from the ground up. Your replacement cost is based on factors such as local labor and construction costs as well as the style and size of your home.

2. Other structures on your property

Your home insurance policy will also cover other structures on your property damaged by wildfires, including fencing, driveways and walkways, garages not attached to your home, sheds, and more. 

Your other structures coverage limit is generally set at 10% of your policy’s dwelling limit, but most companies will let you adjust your coverage levels to ensure you’re fully protected.  

3. Your landscaping

If trees, shrubs, and plants in your lawn are scorched in a wildfire, your home insurance policy likely covers these landscaping elements up to a certain limit — typically around 5% of your dwelling coverage

Just pay close attention to other special limits outlined in your policy for shrubbery. Many insurance companies won’t pay more than $500 to $1,500 for any one tree, shrub, or plant.

4. Your personal belongings

Homeowners insurance also covers the cost of repairing or replacing any damaged belongings — like furniture, clothing, and jewelry — up to the personal property coverage limit in your policy. 

Your personal property coverage limit is generally set at 50% of your policy’s dwelling limit, but most insurance companies will let you adjust your coverage levels to suit your needs.

5. Your additional living expenses

If your home is set ablaze and you’re forced to evacuate, your policy’s loss of use coverage can reimburse you for living expenses while you’re away from home, including:

  • Hotel or temporary rental

  • Restaurant meals

  • Laundry and dry cleaning

  • Transportation costs

→ Learn more about wildfire insurance

What other coverages can protect my home from wildfires? 

Consider adding extended replacement cost or guaranteed replacement cost coverage to your home insurance policy to further protect your home from wildfire damage. 

Extended replacement cost coverage

Extended replacement cost coverage is an endorsement that you can add-on to your home policy that increases your dwelling coverage limit an extra 25% to 50%. 

Here’s how it works.

Say a wildfire destroys your home and neighborhood, which leads to an increased demand for construction and labor. This can cause the cost of labor and construction to skyrocket, leaving you without enough coverage to fully rebuild your home. Extended replacement cost can extend your coverage limits in the event that this happens. 

→ Learn more about extended replacement cost coverage 

Guaranteed replacement cost coverage

Guaranteed replacement cost coverage is another coverage add-on, but it extends your coverage limit no matter how much it costs. 

Here’s how it works.

If a fire or storm destroys your home, guaranteed replacement cost coverage ensures your home will be fully rebuilt to the way it was before — regardless of if it costs double or triple your coverage limits.  

→ Learn more about guaranteed replacement cost coverage

Protect your home from wildfires — compare home insurance rates today

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How to find wildfire coverage in high-risk wildfire areas

As wildfires continue to get larger and more costly for the insurance industry, coverage denials and policy cancellations have become the norm. If you live in a fire-prone area and you’ve been repeatedly denied homeowners insurance, you have a few options to get the coverage you need.

Your state’s FAIR plan

Most states offer what is referred to as a Fair Access to Insurance Requirements Plan, or FAIR Plan. This is a type of last-resort homeowners insurance for residents who can’t find wildfire coverage on the open market. 

These policies provide less coverage than a typical homeowners insurance policy and are generally more expensive, so FAIR Plans are only recommended as a last resort. 

Excess and surplus lines insurance

Your other option is to purchase coverage through an excess and surplus lines insurer, which is becoming increasingly popular in wildfire-prone states like California. Home insurance direct premiums written in California by excess and surplus carriers almost tripled since 2018 — increasing in 2021 to $235 million, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis. [1]  

Also known as E&S insurance, this is a type of property insurance that covers risks that are too high for a regular insurance company to take on — including extreme wildfire risk. Since E&S insurance companies take on more risk than regular insurers, this type of coverage is typically more expensive than standard homeowners insurance.

Here are a few popular E&S insurance companies to consider:

  • Cincinnati Specialty Underwriters (subsidiary of The Cincinnati Insurance)

  • Chubb Custom Insurance (subsidiary of Chubb)

  • Lexington Insurance (subsidiary of AIG)

  • North Light Specialty Insurance (subsidiary of Allstate)

  • Scottsdale Insurance (subsidiary of Nationwide)

High-value homeowners insurance companies

If your home is worth more than $1 million, consider wildfire coverage through a premier insurance company that specializes in protecting high-value homes. In addition to covering wildfire damage, premier insurance companies often provide policy perks like wildfire mitigation and private firefighter services.

Here are a few popular premier insurance companies for high-value homes in wildfire areas:

  • AIG

  • Chubb

  • Pure Insurance

Protect your home from wildfires — compare home insurance rates today

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How to prevent wildfire damage to your home

Homeowners insurance rates are based largely on your home’s location and any potential hazards it faces. If your property is full of dry leaves and pine needles or you have trees or foliage next to your home, you may be charged astronomical premiums or denied coverage altogether. 

By taking the following steps, you’ll lower your home’s risk of wildfire damage and lower your home insurance rates:

  • Make sure your home has a 6-inch ground-to-siding clearance

  • Consider noncombustible siding and roofing

  • Clear debris from your roof

  • Cover your home with Class A roofing, like concrete or clay roof tiles

  • Clean your gutters regularly

  • Use nonflammable fencing and gates

  • Protect your windows using multi-pane or tempered glass materials 

  • Make sure all windows are closed if a wildfire is in close range

Frequently asked questions

What states experience the most wildfires?

California, Texas, and North Carolina experienced the most wildfires in 2021, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. You can learn more with our guide to wildfire statistics by state.

Can I get a home insurance discount for having fire safety devices in my home?

Yes, many home insurance companies offer discounts for installing fire and smoke detection devices in your home, as well as taking steps to mitigate the structure of your house against wildfire damage. You can learn more with our guide to home insurance discounts.

Does home insurance cover wildfire damage to my car?

No, home insurance doesn’t cover wildfire damage to your car. Instead, you’ll need to file a claim with your car insurance company.

Does condo insurance cover wildfire damage?

Your condo insurance policy will typically cover wildfire damage to the interior walls of your condo, your belongings inside, and additional living expenses if you need to live elsewhere while your condo is being repaired. And your homeowners association’s master policy will typically cover the exterior of your condo, including your outside walls and roof.

Does renters insurance cover wildfire damage?

Renters insurance covers wildfire damage to your personal belongings, but not to the structure of the rental property itself — that’s what your landlord’s insurance policy is for. Renters insurance will also cover additional living expenses you incur if you need to live elsewhere while the rental property is being repaired.

Does mobile home insurance cover wildfire damage?

Standard mobile home insurance covers wildfire damage. This includes damage to your home itself, other structures on your property, shrubs and plants in your yard, your belongings inside, and additional living expenses if you need to live elsewhere while your home is being repaired.

References

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  1. S&P Global Market Intelligence

    . "

    Use of surplus lines for homeowners coverage surging in California

    ." Accessed December 02, 2022.

Authors

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

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Pat Howard is a managing editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where he specializes in homeowners insurance. His work and expertise has been featured in MarketWatch, Real Simple, Fox Business, VentureBeat, This Old House, Investopedia, Fatherly, Lifehacker, Better Homes & Garden, Property Casualty 360, and elsewhere.

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

gray linkedin icon link

Kara McGinley is a senior editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

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