Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Wildfires?
Homeowner’s insurance policies are incredibly important. In nearly all circumstances, homeowners are required to have some sort of insurance on their houses. These policies are designed to provide insurance for a home’s structure as well as personal belongings if a destructive event occurs. In general, most standard homeowners insurance policies will help protect against wildfires, but coverage may vary depending on geographic location and the terms of the policy. In some cases, homeowners may find that this type of insurance will not cover fire damage in areas where wildfires are common. If your home faces a higher risk of fire damage due to your geographic area, you need to fully understand whether your homeowner’s insurance policy will help you should such an event occur.
What Does It Cover?
If your homeowner’s insurance policy covers wildfire damage, it is likely that it will offer several different types of protection.
This type of coverage is designed to protect the structure of the home and any attached structures, such as a deck or a garage. If your home is damaged by a wildfire or other types of peril, dwelling coverage will likely pay for repairs and rebuilding.
Personal Property Coverage
Personal property coverage is going to help pay for the belongings inside of the home that gets destroyed along with the outer structure. This can include things like clothing, furniture, electronics, decorations, etc. There will typically be limits applied to what belongings are covered, so you need to be sure to review your homeowner’s insurance policy to determine whether your coverage limits for personal property are sufficient.
Additional Living Expense Coverage
A homeowners insurance policy could help pay for the costs of increased living expenses you incur, such as renting a temporary dwelling, while your home is being repaired.
Some homeowner’s insurance policies will offer limited coverage to pay for the landscaping around a home should it be destroyed by a wildfire. This could include plants, trees, shrubs, or general lawn work that gets damaged.
Limits and Deductibles in Homeowner Insurance Claims
Every type of homeowner’s insurance comes with certain limits. That is, there will be a certain amount of money that an insurance carrier will payout for a claim. Your insurance carrier is not going to pay for damages that exceed the limits of your insurance policy.
However, even if the damages do not exceed the limits of your homeowner’s insurance policy, you will still be required to pay a deductible before your coverage begins. The deductible is the amount that you pay out-of-pocket to cover the damages before the carrier pays for the rest. The deductible on any given insurance policy will vary, depending on the policy terms. Some homeowners choose to have a high deductible so that they pay less on monthly premiums for their insurance. Alternatively, homeowners may choose to have a very low deductible, but they will also pay higher monthly premiums.
How To Protect Your Home From Wildfires
There are various ways you can protect your home from wildfires. As we review these points, please understand that not all of these will apply to your particular situation.
- Homes built within 15 feet of each other are more likely to burn in bunches, so consider buying a home that is farther apart from others around it.
- Make sure your home has a six-inch ground to siding clearance.
- Consider using non-combustible siding and roofing for your home.
- Clear all debris from your roof.
- Use Class A roofing, such as concrete or clay tiles.
- Clean gutters regularly.
- Use multi-pane windows or tempered glass materials for windows and make sure all windows are closed if a fire is close.
- Only use decks that comply with California’s building code regulations for fire-prone areas.
- Remove any shrubs or brush from underneath trees around your property, prune branches that extend over the home, and clear any dead vegetation from around your home.
Filing A Homeowners Insurance Claim For Wildfire Damages
If you have been impacted by a wildfire in California, you will need to contact your insurance carrier directly to start the claims process. When you begin the claims process, your insurance carrier will let you know if you are eligible for additional living expenses. The Insurance Information Institute provides various information for victims of wildfires to help them navigate their claims.
The process for filing a claim with various insurance carriers in California will vary slightly, but most insurance carriers try to streamline the claim as much as possible. However, that does not mean that filing will be easy. It may be necessary to secure assistance from a wildfire insurance attorney to help deal with difficult insurance carriers.
Can You Get Coverage in Fire-prone Areas?
It is not uncommon for insurance carriers to send out non-renewal notices to policyholders that live in fire-prone areas. If you receive a non-renewal notice from your insurance carrier, or if you have moved into an area that is prone to fires and are having trouble finding insurance coverage, there are a few options available.
- California FAIR Plan. Most states have last-resort insurance available for homeowners if they cannot get coverage on the open market. This is called Fair Access to Insurance Requirements, or FAIR Plans. In California, the FAIR plan in the state covers up to $1.5 million in structural and personal property coverage for homes in higher-risk fire areas. However, these policies are typically going to be much more expensive than open-market policies, and they will not provide coverage for other types of perils, such as theft or water damaged.
- Premier carrier. If you live in a high-risk fire area and have been dropped by your insurer, or struggling to find coverage, you may be able to find coverage from “premier” carriers, though this coverage will likely be more expensive. Chubb and AIG offer various types of loss-prevention measures, as well as private firefighter services, and they have extensive experience handling wildfires. Typically, these carriers are only intended for homes with very high valuations (typically $1 million or more).