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Insuring your home against fire damage

A fire is every homeowner’s nightmare, and few of us want to dwell on the possibility of our home and contents going up in smoke.

But by making sure you have the right home insurance in place, you can at least protect your house and belongings from the financial impact of fire damage.

A fire is every homeowner’s nightmare, and few of us want to dwell on the possibility of our home and contents going up in smoke.

But by making sure you have the right home insurance in place, you can at least protect your house and belongings from the financial impact of fire damage.

Written by
Anna McEntee
Insurance comparison expert
Reviewed by
Kate Hughes
Insurance expert
Last Updated
5 JANUARY 2024
5 min read
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Will my home insurance cover fire damage?

If you have buildings and home contents insurance in place, you’re likely to be covered for anything that’s damaged or destroyed in a fire. Both policies usually cover fire damage as standard, so you shouldn’t need to add additional cover.

It’s useful to know what’s covered by which type (or part) of policy though.

Buildings insurance covers your home’s structure – for example, ceilings, walls, roof and windows. It also covers any permanent fixtures, such as your kitchen or bathroom.

Contents insurance covers damage to furniture, clothes, electrical items and jewellery – essentially anything that can be physically moved from and within the house. It usually includes carpets too.

You can see why contents insurance is a good idea for renters, for example. They may not own the fabric of the building, but the belongings within it are still important and valuable – and could be worth protecting.

Why might a claim for fire damage be rejected?

Some of the common reasons your claim might be rejected include:

The property was unoccupied

Most home insurance policies won’t cover your property if it’s left unoccupied for more than 30 consecutive days a year. Some providers will allow you to extend your unoccupied property insurance beyond 30 days, so always speak to your provider before considering additional insurance.

Home improvements and renovations

You’ll need to let your insurance provider know if you’re having any major home improvements or renovations done. Major work, such as an extension or loft conversion, could increase the rebuild cost of your home if it were destroyed by fire. There may also be a greater risk of fire during the building work itself – for example, if you’re having any electrical or structural work done. It can be easy to forget, but if you don’t tell your insurance provider it could invalidate your policy.

Smoke alarms

While installing a smoke alarm might help lower your premium, it’s of little use if it’s not working. Make sure it’s tested regularly and keep on top of replacing batteries if it isn’t wired into the mains electricity. If you make a claim for fire damage and it’s found that the alarm wasn’t functioning, your insurance provider may reduce the pay-out or even reject your claim altogether.

Cigarettes

If someone in your house is a smoker, there’s a higher risk of a fire being started by a burning cigarette. When you take out a policy, your provider will ask if you or anyone living in your home smokes. It’s always best to be honest – keeping quiet could invalidate your claim if the cause of the fire was a lit cigarette.

Did you know?

According to government statistics, cigarettes are the biggest cause of house fire fatalities in the UK. Smoking habits like lighting up in bed are responsible for one in three accidental fires resulting in death.

What should I do after a fire?

Once everyone is safe and the immediate threat has passed, your first job is to let your insurance provider know what has happened so they can begin the claims process.

If you have any emergency repairs done, make sure you keep the receipts as they’ll be part of any claim you make.

If the fire was serious, your insurance provider is likely to appoint a loss adjuster to your case, who will:

  • Visit your home and assess the damage
  • Record details of the loss and take photographs
  • Make sure the site is secure by having windows and doors boarded up
  • Recommend local repairers
  • Advise you and your insurance provider on the most suitable way to carry out repairs
  • Issue a full report.

The reality is that large fire-related claims can take a long time to resolve. Smoke and water damage could mean considerable work is needed and you may have to move out while that takes place. If that’s the case, your home insurance might cover the cost of alternative accommodation.

If I’ve had a fire, should I hire a loss assessor to look at my home insurance?

If there’s been a serious fire and your claim is complicated or disputed, it may make sense to appoint an expert to work on your behalf.

All policyholders have the right to hire a loss assessor. If you choose to do so, their role would be to: 

  • Meet your insurance provider’s representatives or loss adjustors on your behalf
  • Help settle your claim
  • Negotiate a claim settlement
  • Help progress your claim, dealing with delays or potential disputes. 

It’s worth remembering…

A loss adjuster works for your insurance provider and assesses factors like whether your claim is valid and what’s covered by your policy. 

An independent loss assessor works for you. They might be paid as a percentage of the final settlement and may ask you to use only their recommended contractors to do the work. They’ll then take a commission from the contractor.

Top tips for fire safety and prevention

  • Make sure you have smoke alarms on at least every level of
    your home.
  • If you have an open fire, get it swept at least twice a year if you burn wood and at least once a year if you use smokeless fuels. Always use a fireguard and make sure the embers are damped down before going to bed.
  • Don’t overload electrical sockets or extension leads.
  • Don’t cover any electrical equipment that gets warm, such as power supplies for laptops. Watch out for faulty and over-heating electrical equipment and wiring/cables.
  • Always burn candles in a secure holder and never leave a burning candle unattended – blow them out before you leave the room.
  • Don’t smoke in bed. If you smoke, never leave a lit cigarette burning in the ashtray. Always make sure to extinguish it fully before leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Don’t leave your kitchen unattended while you’re cooking. If you love a good fry-up, invest in a thermostatically controlled electric deep fryer – it’s far safer than a chip pan. If you use a chip pan and it catches fire, never throw water on it. Call 999 immediately.

Read more of our top tips for fire safety and fire prevention in the home.

How can I ensure my home is covered?

Having buildings and contents home insurance in place could give you valuable peace of mind, especially in case of a potentially traumatic event such as a fire. Compare home insurance quotes to find the right policy for you.

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Frequently asked questions

What is classified as a fire?

This may sound like an odd question, but your insurance provider might well define exactly what a fire is. To claim for fire damage, there typically must be physical flames that cause the damage.

Some providers will exclude damage caused by scorching, singeing, warping or melting if not accompanied by flames. So if you left hair straighteners on a carpet and burnt a patch on the carpet, it would probably be considered as accidental damage as there were no flames.

Do I need specialist cover if I have a thatched roof property?

You can usually get home insurance from a regular provider for a thatched roof property, but it may be more expensive than a standard property. This is because it’s a greater fire risk and has a higher rebuild value. You might find that specialist non-standard home insurance will offer more comprehensive cover.

See Historic England’s advice on reducing fire risk in thatched properties, particularly if you have a wood-burning stove.

How much home insurance do I need?

Because a serious fire can completely destroy your home and possessions, it’s vital you have a high enough level of home insurance cover to rebuild your home and replace all the things in it.

If you’re underinsured, you may find that your insurance provider will only pay a percentage of your claim. With rising inflation and the price of building materials going up, it can be easy to undervalue how much your possessions are worth and how much it could cost to rebuild your home.

It’s worth checking the amount you’re insured for is correct, and increase your cover if necessary. 

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Anna McEntee - Insurance comparison expert

Anna’s all about delivering fantastic insurance products at a great price. Value is the most important thing for Anna, as she cuts through the jargon and finds what’s most important and worth your hard-earned money.

Learn more about Anna

Kate Hughes - Insurance and finance expert

As an award-winning journalist, author and broadcast commentator, Kate has been writing about personal finance for more than 20 years. She’s the former Money Editor for The Independent. Her work has appeared across the UK broadsheets as well as a number of international titles. Kate brings her financial expertise to inform her readers on ways to save money. She’s also written a book. ‘Going Zero: One Family’s Journey to Zero Waste and a Greener Lifestyle’ is available now.

Learn more about Kate

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