The massive California wildfires that claimed thousands of structures and hundreds of lives got a lot of homeowners wondering if they have adequate insurance protection. The fires caused immense destruction, and many homeowners couldn’t recover from the damage. They didn’t have the funds to fully repair their homes with the insurance proceeds as they didn’t find out till late what their insurance policies covered and didn’t cover.
Over the past decade, insurance companies have made it harder for consumers to properly insure their property, especially against fire protection. Home insurance policies are becoming more complicated and less generous, with the risks and costs shifting from insurers to policyholders. So, if you’re concerned about whether your home and belongings aren’t covered in case of a fire, here is everything that you should know about fire protection insurance for your home.
Is Fire Protection Included in Home Insurance?
The emergence and growing awareness of fire safety practices have meant that fires are on the decline as a whole, but this doesn’t include wildfires, which have become more destructive than ever. In fact, over 80 million acres of land in the US has been burnt by wildfires in the past decade, and these wildfires take place in every state.
Even if you don’t live in an area that is prone to wildfires, there is still the risk of losing your home or belongings to a fire, and you should seek protection against it. From an abandoned stove burner to faulty wirings, accidents can happen. According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are hundreds of thousands of home structure fires on average each year, and the leading cause for these structural fires was cooking equipment.
In general, homeowners’ insurance policies do cover the home if it is damaged by a fire, and the three main areas that are covered by insurance include:
· Main Dwelling
If the structure of the home is destroyed or damaged in a fire, you will be covered by your homeowners’ insurance policy. That includes the actual home and any attached structures like the deck or the garage.
· Detached Structures
Homeowners insurance is going to cover structures located on your property that aren’t attached to your home, and these include detached garages and sheds. Most policies also cover landscaping as well.
· Personal Property
The belongings inside your home, such as appliances, furniture, clothing, and valuables like art and jewelry, are also protected by most homeowners’ insurance policies. If these items are destroyed by a fire, your policy is going to reimburse you for their value. However, most policies will limit the reimbursement to be a percentage of the policy, which would be about 40% to 75% of the policy.
Reimbursement from Policy
Apart from reimbursing you for physical property, the home insurance policy will often cover expenses related to meals, hotels, and other costs incurred due to the home being inhabitable because of the damage caused by the fire.
However, you should know that home insurance coverage will max out after a certain dollar amount. That can be a problem if the market value of your home has risen above the replacement cost, or if you own a lot of valuables, and in that case, the reimbursement amount may not be enough or adequate.
Another potential problem can be that insurers sometimes offer actual cash-value coverage, and unlike replacement coverage, this is going to take depreciation into account and will determine how much you’re reimbursed. The actual cash value may not fully cover the replacement value, and that will mean the policyholder is going to be paying more of the bill from their pocket.
What to Do if You’re Uninsured?
For most people, their home is their greatest asset, and it’s important for them to avoid being underinsured, especially when it comes to fire protection for homes. To find out if your home is properly insured, it’s important that you ask your insurance company the following questions:
- Do I have enough insurance to rebuild my home and replace all lost possessions?
- Do I have enough coverage for additional living expenses?
- Do I have enough insurance to protect my assets?
The main thing here is to ensure that the insurance policy offers you with enough coverage. If the answer to any of these questions is “No,” then you will need to increase your coverage or purchase a separate fire insurance policy. When it comes to your belongings, you may want to purchase a rider to protect your valuable items.
You should also be aware that insurance companies sometimes change the coverage when the policy renews. So, just because you had adequate fire coverage when you bought your policy, it doesn’t mean that you still have enough coverage after the policy renewal. That’s why it’s important to review the fine print of your home insurance policy every year to ensure that you’re still protected.
What If You Live in a High-Risk Area?
Even though most homeowners are properly protected by their home insurance policies from fire disasters, it’s not the same for individuals who are living in areas where there is a high risk of wildfires. For people in these areas, the premiums are going to be higher, and some insurers may even refuse to renew policies for people living in high-danger areas.
The insurance company may also require that you make a few changes to the exterior of the house and the property that surrounds it if it’s located in an area that’s vulnerable to wildfire. However, some insurance companies provide discounts if you take certain steps to prevent damage to your home, like installing a fire-resistant roof or taking part in a Firewise community education program.