Standard home insurance policies cover damage caused by fire and lightning, smoke, vandalism, theft, and other perils. The coverage typically includes the building itself, your property within the building, and additional living expenses if you need to move elsewhere if the damage to your home is too great. Liability coverage provides coverage if someone is injured on your property and you or someone in your household is found legally responsible.
When a home is damaged in a fire, it’s usually considered to be a total loss. Not only is the dwelling itself damaged to the degree that it must be repaired or rebuilt before it is considered habitable, but smoke and water damage will have likely destroyed the personal contents inside.
There are two situations in which fire damage is absolutely not covered under a homeownerís policy:
Arson is when a fire has been deliberately set by the home owner. Arson is a criminal offense as is arson insurance fraud. One of the main reasons that someone commits arson is in order to collect insurance money. Insurance companies are fully aware of this, and when a claim is made as a result of a house fire, investigators are sent out to to the site of the fire to assess the damage and determine the cause of the fire. If the investigation shows that arson was the cause of the fire, there will be no coverage.
Fire in a Vacant Home
Damage caused by a fire in a vacant home will not be covered if the home was vacant at the time of the fire. Vacancy is defined differently by different providers, but generally, a home is considered vacant if it has not been occupied for more than 30 consecutive days. If the insurance company can prove the home was vacant at the time of the fire, there will be no coverage.
That said, homeowners can insure a vacant home, such as a home that’s occupied during the winter months but is otherwise vacant, by purchasing an endorsement to their existing policy. Many home insurance providers also offer vacant home insurance which covers the perils named in a standard home insurance policy, including theft, vandalism, wind, hail, and fire.
If you own a home that is only occupied for a portion of the year, be sure that your policy remains in effect after 30 days and covers damages from named perils even if your home is unoccupied.