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.

Kate Hughes
Insurance expert
5
minute read
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Posted 19 FEBRUARY 2020 Last Updated 17 MARCH 2022

Will my home insurance cover fire damage?

Probably. 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’ll also cover any permanent fixtures, such as your kitchen or bathroom.

Meanwhile, you can protect your belongings with contents insurance. This offers cover for damage to furniture, clothes, electrical items and other goods – 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.

What isn’t covered?

Make sure you read your policy documents carefully so you know exactly what’s covered and what’s not. No one wants to face the aftermath of a blaze only to find themselves in a battle over insurance.

It’s also worth being aware of some of the common reasons your claim might be rejected, including:

Unoccupied properties

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.

Fire alarms

While installing a fire 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 payout 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?

Most of us know that smoking is bad for our health, but according to government statistics, cigarettes are also 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 do I need to watch out for? 

It’s one thing failing to insure your home at all, but nearly seven million UK homes are underinsured. If you don’t accurately value your home contents, you could be left seriously out of pocket in the event of a claim.

What should I do if there’s been 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 as soon as possible so they can begin the claims process. If the fire was serious, they’re 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.

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 (if relevant), while an independent loss assessor would work for you.

A loss assessor might be paid as a percentage of the final settlement (or could be fee-free) and may ask you to use only their recommended contractors to do the work. They will then take a commission from the contractor.

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. 

Top tips for fire safety and prevention

  • If you have an open fire, make sure it’s 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.
  • Always burn candles in a secure holder and never leave a burning candle unattended – blow them out before you leave the room.
  • 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.
  • 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 present causing the damage. 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 present.

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

Maybe. 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.

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