Every year there are around 24,000 home fires in Canada. And just because the fire has been extinguished, that doesn't mean the trauma is over.
There's the cleanup and repair to contend with. And repairs can be costly.
Typically, it costs between $3,149 and $26,573 to clean up after a fire. If you're a renter, you may think that your renter's insurance will cover any fire and smoke damage.
But that's not something you want to wait to find out until after the damage is done. We want to help you make sure you're fully covered no matter what.
Keep reading to learn whether renters insurance covers smoke and fire damage.
How Fire and Smoke Damage Affects Your Home
Every home fire is different but there are common damages that most people have to contend with after the fire has been put out. It's not uncommon for firefighters to have to break windows and cut holes in the roof in slow down the fire.
They may also have to cut holes in your wall to ensure the fire has been put out entirely. Then there's the smoke and water damage.
Soot is a huge problem. Not only because it covers everything from your furniture to your ceiling but because of how dangerous soot is to your health. Soot produces polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are known to mutate genes. It's important to hire a professional fire cleaning service to get rid of all the soot before you move back in to decrease your chances of getting cancer or causing birth defects.
Water is great until the fire is put out. Then you need to worry about mold and mildew.
Mold colonies can begin growing a mere 48 hours after the water damage occurs. If left untreated, the combination of fire, water, and mold damage can result in a complete loss if not handled properly.
Facts About Renters Insurance
What is renters insurance? It's insurance that covers your personal property.
When you apply for a home mortgage, your mortgage lender requires you to get insurance. So do most homeowners associations.
That's why 95% of all homeowners have homeowners insurance. But not all property management companies for rentals require their tenants to acquire renters insurance.
In fact, only about 40% of renters actually have renters insurance.
What Renters Insurance Covers After a Fire
Whether you accidentally caused the fire or a neighbor did, it's irrelevant when it comes to insurance. Unless, of course, you deliberately set the fire, which is a criminal act.
Otherwise, any damage to your property is covered. What's not covered is any damage to the structure such as the roof, cabinets or refrigerator. That's covered under your landlord's insurance.
How Much Renters Insurance Costs
Renters insurance typically costs $20 per month or less from most insurance companies. It's not expensive and it does cover things such as damage to other people's belongings and even a hotel stay if your home becomes unlivable due to a fire.
However, it doesn't cover everything and not all insurance policies are the same. Always carefully read your renter's insurance policy so you know exactly what is and what isn't covered should something happen.
How to Find Cheap Renters Insurance
There are ways to lower your monthly renter's insurance rate. Start by going through all your belongings.
Taking a home inventory helps you ensure that all your valuables are protected. While many insurance companies have their own app to snap photos of your valuables, you can also use a third-party app such as Sortly.
Estimate Your Coverage
Most renters own around $30,000 worth of belongings. If you estimate you're near that number, you can keep premiums low while purchasing that amount of coverage.
If you find your belongings are worth more than that number, make sure to match your coverage limit to the estimated worth of your stuff. You can either pay more or choose an umbrella policy.
An umbrella policy provides increased limits over the existing policy. Choosing an umbrella policy sometimes means a less expensive premium than it would if you increase the coverage limits on the existing policy.
Bundle Services and Get Multiple Quotes
Always shop around to obtain multiple quotes. Each insurance company offers different rates and different options when it comes to renters insurance.
You want to find a policy that works best for your needs and your budget. If you already have insurance through a carrier, you may be able to save money by bundling your auto insurance with your renter's insurance.
Take Steps to Protect Against Fire Damage
There are steps you can take to help protect yourself and your property against potential fires. Not only will these steps make you and your family safer in your home, but your insurance company will likely also offer discounts.
Make sure you have a working smoke detector in each room of your home. Replace the batteries once a year. You can also invest in a smoke detector with a lithium battery that will last you for 10 years.
Test your detector at least once a year to make sure it still works properly.
Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Carbon monoxide is deadly and odorless. Either invest in a smoke detector/carbon monoxide alarm or install separate carbon monoxide alarms in every room.
Again, at least once a year change the batteries and test the system to make sure it's still working properly.
Most fires start in the kitchen. It's a good idea to keep a working fire extinguisher there so you can safely and easily put out fires before the fire department even arrives.
Many new apartment dwellings have sprinkler systems built in to protect against fires. This ensures that even if you're not home, you can still protect your home and belongings against a fire.
What Your Policy Will Cover
If you do have a fire, ask the fire department or the fire marshal's office to provide you with a copy of the fire report. Most places consider fire reports to be a public document.
You can then accurately answer any questions your insurance company or any other official offices may need.
Check Your Coverage and Limits
Each insurance company sets its own limits and amount of coverage for fires. Make sure you understand exactly what your insurance covers.
Your insurance covers any property that's lost as a result of a fire. Most policies include replacement cost versus actual cash value coverage.
That means your insurance company will pay you the amount you need to replace your property, not just the depreciated value. However, make sure your policy includes phrasing such as "replacement cost content".
Otherwise, you'll only get reimbursed for the current cost of your 5-year-old laptop rather than the money you need to actually replace it.
If you somehow cause bodily injury or property damage to someone else, your renter's insurance will protect you. Your insurance coverage will pay their medical expenses and pay for the loss of their belongings.
Also, if you caused the fire due to negligence, you may find that your landlord's insurance company will try to recover costs from you. Your renter's insurance will help to pay some of the liability, including legal costs.
Loss-of-use coverage is any additional expenses incurred while you're living away from home after a covered fire. Most fires cause enough damage that it takes some time to repair everything.
Often, that means you need to stay in a hotel or stay somewhere that makes your commute longer. Any additional expenses are covered.
Your renter's insurance even covers you if you're forced to evacuate due to major disasters or state of emergencies. And if your home is accidentally damaged as a result of putting out the fire or stopping the spread of the fire, you're eligible to get reimbursement for any losses.
You may even be able to get assistance from FEMA. You'll have to file a claim with your insurer and apply for FEMA funds. While FEMA funds may be reduced by the amount paid in your renters claim, you may be entitled to additional funds beyond what your insurance company covers.
Smoke damage is also covered along with fire in your renter's insurance policy. Insurance companies treat loss from smoke damage the same way as a fire.
However, insurance companies won't cover loss caused by smoke resulting from smudging or industrial operations. Smudging is an agricultural technique used to prevent frost from growing on trees.
And you won't be covered from any damage caused by the manufacturing of controlled substances. In other words, if you burn down your home because you were running a meth lab out of it, insurance won't cover any damages.
What Renters Insurance Won't Cover
Your insurance policy won't cover you if you set the fire deliberately. And if the fire was an accident, but caused by you, if your landlord's insurance company goes after you, you're covered.
If your car is damaged due to fire, the car itself won't be covered under your renter's insurance. However, if you have any belongings in the car, it may be covered.
Get a Quote With Us
Dealing with fire and smoke damage is stressful enough without worrying about how to pay for everything. That's why it's so important to invest in renters insurance.
We want to help protect you. Click here to get your free insurance quote today.