Of course home insurance covers fire. It is the reason home insurance was invented back in the 1600s, and until quite recently, was the most common type of home insurance claim. The fire insurance in your policy typically covers not only the building, but also your possessions, if they are lost or damaged in a blaze. The only reasons a fire in your home would not be covered is if you set the fire on purpose, or if you are grossly negligent in fire safety.
Most of us assume that our home insurance covers us if our home is damaged or destroyed by fire. And we are absolutely correct in that assumption. Every home insurance policy sold today in Ontario covers your home for a wide variety of fire causes, and even covers related losses from things like smoke, and even water damage from fire hoses or sprinkler systems.
How much fire damage is covered?
The fire coverage in your home policy essentially covers all the same things that are covered from a tornado, burglar or vandal. The main building, along with any betterments or improvements, are covered up to an upper limit that represents the estimated cost of rebuilding. So are decking, landscaping, fencing, sheds etc. if you’ve let your broker know that these should be included in your coverage. A good broker will ask the right questions to make sure.
You also should have coverage for any belongings you keep in the home, including appliances, electronics, furniture clothes etc., also up to a maximum dollar limit. If you have valuables like cash, collectibles, jewelry, fine art or musical instruments, you need to buy separate insurance for these.
Most fires aren’t total losses, but if your house burns to the ground, insurance should pay to rebuild it as it was, and in most cases you’ll be able to get new, as opposed to used, furniture, appliances etc. Again, a standard policy will have very low sub-limits on things like cash and jewelry, but most of your stuff should be replaced.
If a fire is so bad that you are forced to live elsewhere while your home is repaired or rebuilt, your home insurance will pay for that as well. But it will only pay for you to live the same way you’re used to living, so sorry, no five-star hotels and fine dining.
How much does fire insurance cost?
The average Ontarian pays a little over $1,200 a year for home insurance. If you live in the city, fairly close to a fire hydrant, fire insurance makes up a small portion of that cost. In more remote areas, it may be harder to get fire insurance, and costs will most certainly be higher. In terms of the fire portion of your policy, the following factors will impact how much you pay:
- The estimated rebuild value of the home (not to be confused with what you paid for the property)
- What your home is made of (some materials are more flammable)
- How far you are from the closest fire station
- How far you are from the nearest fire hydrant
- Type, installation and placement of smoke alarms
- Whether you have a wood-burning stove
- How the home is heated
- Whether you have well-maintained fire extinguishers, how many, and where
Some of these factors are out of your control, but others, like alarm and sprinkler systems, are very controllable, and you can ultimately save a lot of money on home insurance by installing and/or upgrading to the latest safety tech, including smoke alarms that are integrated with your home heating and ventilation system for the utmost in early detection.
What fire causes are covered?
Home insurance actually covers a wide range of fires, including:
- Fires started by a gas leak
- Forest fires and other wildfires
- Fires started by faulty wiring
- Fires started by a lightning strike
- Fires started by defective appliances
- Fires started by an earthquake (other earthquake damage is not usually covered)
- Kitchen grease fires
- Fires started by an unattended cigarette
- Fires started by kids knocking over a lit candle
- Fires as the result of a fireworks accident (as long as the fireworks are legal)
What fires are not covered?
Most of the things that would lead to a fire in your home not being covered aren’t really things you have to worry about, because they involve you committing a serious crime. That said, here are some fire causes that are not covered by home insurance:
- A fire that you or someone in your household set on purpose (arson)
- A fire that you paid or asked someone else to set
- A fire resulting from your criminal activity, like if you have an illegal grow-op in the basement, or if you’re storing explosives in the laundry room
- A fire caused or made worse because you neglected basic fire safety, like putting new batteries in smoke detectors, fixing faulty wiring etc. – This is called a moral risk exclusion and is very hard for the insurance company to prove
- A fire as the result of a war
Interestingly, any fire that is set intentionally is not supposed to be covered, but if it was set maliciously by someone outside your household, most insurance companies would pay your claim, and then possibly sue the insurance company of the person who set the fire, if there’s enough proof. Also, smoke damage from a fire is typically covered, but not if the smoke came from your fireplace.
Can I buy home insurance for fire only?
The fact is that you can buy fire-only insurance if you want, usually for as little as a few hundred dollars a year. This insurance won’t include any liability coverage if someone hurts themselves on your property, and won’t pay to replace the building or its contents if you suffer a break-in, if a pipe bursts and floods your basement, or if a wind or lightning storm cause damage to the home.
History of fire insurance
Fire is actually the reason that home insurance exists in the first place. The earliest home insurance policies came about after The Great Fire of London (UK) in 1666, when most of the city burned to the ground. The first insurance company was called “The Fire Office”. This also then led to the earliest fire departments, called fire brigades.
These days, with advanced fire detection and sprinkler systems available, and urban fire departments responding quickly to most calls, fire losses are no longer the main thing that you need insurance for. In fact today, water damage is a much bigger problem for both homes and businesses, and fire makes up a much smaller portion of your home insurance premium.
Still, it is essential coverage, and our home insurance brokers would be happy to talk to you about this and other coverages that make up a comprehensive policy to safeguard your most valuable possession.