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Fire insurance coverage is a home insurance coverage rider no one wants to have to exercise. But unfortunately, damage from a fire is something everyone should be prepared to mitigate because it can happen in an instant.

Something as innocuous as a rag too close to an oven burner or a scented candle that gets knocked over can take down an entire house, as could a shorting circuit, a downed power line that falls the wrong way, or a bolt of lightning in just the wrong place.

In good news, Ontario’s Ministry of the Solicitor General reported a 17% decline in the number of fires that caused a reported injury, fatality or dollar in 2019.

In less good news, almost half of fire losses occur at or within residential occupancies. This alone should be reason enough to make sure your home insurance policy can more than adequately cover you in case of a fire.

Other reasons to make sure you have fire insurance

Unlike water, another frequent cause of loss, a fire will consume just about everything you have – including items like jewellery and clothes that a flood may just soak. And whatever does survive will probably smell like smoke for the foreseeable future. For most people, that’s as good as ruined.

Does home insurance cover fire damage?

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, “virtually every home insurance policy covers damage caused by fire.” If a policy you’re considering doesn’t cover fire damage, that could be a sign to keep shopping around.

Do insurance companies deny fire claims?

Generally not, but given the severity of most fire situations and the amount of money involved in a claim, surveyors and adjusters conduct very thorough investigations. A claim could be denied if the insurance company proves one or more of the following:

  • Misrepresentation – if you lie about the circumstance of a fire
  • Policy violation – if something like an unauthorized piece of equipment or too many people in the house caused the fire
  • Illegal activity – if the fire was caused by something like a meth lab

Fire insurance & condos

If you live in a condo, the condo corporation’s insurance will cover the building’s main structure and common areas – but not what’s in your unit, or any upgrades you’ve made.

If a fire in your condo spreads to other units in the building, the personal liability coverage in your home insurance policy will give you the money to cover any property damage and personal injury.

Keep in mind that the relatively slow repair process of a condo could lead to higher living expenses. It’s best to check your policy’s “loss of use” limits.

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Activating homeowners insurance after a fire loss

The faster you call your insurance company after a fire, the sooner they can start working on your file and get you the funds to begin making yourself whole again.

Your insurance advisor or claims adjuster will help you through the claims process, but here are a few handy tips to keep in mind throughout recovering:

  • List out everything that was damaged and everything that was lost completely. If you store photos on the cloud, you should be able to find pictures of everything you used to have.
  • Take photos of the damage, especially if you know or think you know where and how the fire started.
  • Keep receipts of everything you buy from the time of the fire on, including living expenses, food, clothes, and transportation.

Most insurance companies’ claims departments are open 24/7, so you can get in touch whenever you’re ready.

After you make your claim, your insurance provider will appoint a surveyor to estimate the loss. The surveyor’s job is to assess the scene honestly and fairly, so it’s important that you don’t change anything around the scene of the fire.

A final point about home insurance and electrical fires

When you think about home insurance for fire damage, you probably think about the kind of fires started by an open flame of some kind. In truth, one in four fire losses are electrical fires started by a spark from a circuit or machine. Be extra vigilant in making sure your home is rid of potential fire hazards – and protected with the worst-case scenario in mind.

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