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There are over 1.3 million fires in the United States each year. If you're an apartment tenant or pay monthly rent, this makes having renters' insurance a must.
But does renters' insurance cover fires? Which property does renters insurance protect from fire damages? Will it protect personal belongings?
In this article, we'll be addressing those key questions and more to give you a better understanding of how renters' insurance works.
What Is Renters' Insurance?
For starters, what is renters' insurance and why do you need it?
A renters' insurance policy is a group of insurance coverages that protects tenants and homeowners living in a house or apartment. It'll protect you, your property, and living arrangements after a covered loss.
But what does renters' insurance cover?
The most prominent aspect of renters' insurance is coverage of personal property. Your insurance can cover a certain cost of replacing or repairing your belongings, like furniture or clothing.
There's also liability coverage, which covers the cost of repairs or medical bills for an incident that you're responsible for. If something damages your property, it also covers hotel bills while you're out of a home.
When it comes to fire and fire damage, renters' insurance plays a big part. Let's look at how it all works.
When Does Renters' Insurance Cover Fire Damage?
Renters' insurance commonly covers fire and fire damage. This means if a fire damages your property, chances are, you're covered.
It covers not just the cost of damaged property and belongings, but also additional living expenses like hotel bills. Let's take a look at what renters' insurance covers when it comes to fire damages.
Renters' Insurance and Damaged Personal Belongings
When a fire damages your personal property or belongings, your renter's insurance will give you a payout to replace them up to a limit. You'll likely pay a deductible when filing a claim for personal property. This is the amount of money you'll pay on a claim before the insurance company pays the rest.
Say your couch costs $3000 to replace and you have a $400 deductible. You'll pay that $400 and the insurance company will pick up the rest.
Renters' Insurance and Liability
If you caused property damage or injury to someone else, renters' insurance can protect you from liability. If you're responsible for starting a fire, your renter's insurance will cover any damage costs or medical bills as long as it was an accident.
If you live in an apartment and accidentally start a fire, your landlord's renter's insurance company might try to recover costs from you. In that case, your renter's insurance might pay some of the liability up to a limit.
Renters' Insurance and Loss-of-Use
Fires can destroy homes and displace their victims. If you need to stay in a hotel while you find another place to live or have to endure long commutes to work as a result, renter's insurance can cover those costs.
How much renters' insurance will cover for loss-of-use costs will vary. In most cases though, it'll at least pay for hotel bills or for a new residence.
Renters' Insurance and Smoke Damage
Many people tend to overlook how much damage smoke can cause on their property after a fire. Renters' insurance covers smoke damage all the same, including for personal property, against liability, and for displacement costs.
If smoke damage occurs from things like smudging and other industrial operations, however, insurers might not cover it.
What if Another Peril Causes Fire Damage?
Not all fires start from a misplaced candle or malfunctioning heaters. Sometimes natural disasters have some devastating ripple effects, such as a fire.
Renters' insurance will cover property damage if something like lightning causes a fire.
Renters' insurance excludes certain disasters, namely floods and earthquakes. There are some caveats though.
If floods or earthquakes cause a fire, your renters' insurance will cover the fire damages.
Damage from wildfires is commonly covered by renters' insurance. In some cases, state or federal authorities require residents to evacuate from their homes because of a spreading wildfire.
Your renters' insurance will likely extend the loss-of-use coverage. This applies even if your home isn't directly damaged by the wildfire.
If authorities accidentally damage your home when putting out the wildfire, you'll also be eligible for reimbursements.
When caught up in a state of emergency or a major disaster, you might be eligible for FEMA financial assistance. You'll have to file claims for both your renter's insurance and with FEMA.
While the FEMA benefits might be lower because you already have renters' insurance, you never know if it's more substantial than what your insurers are offering.
What Does Renters' Insurance NOT Cover for Fires?
We've outlined everything renters' insurance covers and all the situations where insurers will help you out. This begs the question: when does renter's insurance not cover me for fire damage?
It all boils down to how the fire started and the specific types of damage.
For example, who was at fault for the fire plays a big part in whether or not you're covered. If you intentionally caused the fire, your insurance won't cover you for any damages or for liability.
If the fire caused damage to a building, such as an apartment complex, the landlord's insurance covers the damages. This means their insurance company can come after you for losses.
Your renter's insurance should cover those costs so long as the fire was an accident.
Lastly, your renters' insurance won't cover any fire damage inflicted on your car. That's up to your auto insurance policy. However, your renters' insurance might cover any personal property in the car like a laptop or a bag.
How to prevent fire?
Although renters’ insurance commonly covers fire damage, it’s always better to prevent than to ask for a claim. Here we provide some tips to prevent house fires.
Install firing warning systems such as smoke detectors, fire alarms, and fire sprinklers, and check them regularly to make sure they are in good condition. If the alarm beeps weakly, you need to change the batteries. Like other appliances, keeping your firing warning system new is important. Replacing your fire alarms or smoke detectors every ten years can prevent your house from higher risk. Keep equipment like fire extinguishers, fire blankets, and fire escape ladder ready.
According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), house fires mostly start in the kitchen. With so many appliances, you should make sure the oven, stove, and hot plates are clean and away from flammable items. Additionally, don’t leave the kitchen while you leave cooking food unattended. However, it is important to make every room in your house safer. If there is a fireplace in your living room, you should keep the fireplace clean and clear of debris or flammable materials. When using the fireplace, you should keep the glass windows open. The high-powered appliances in your laundry room can overheat, and you should take care of the dryer lint.
Practicing safe habits is helpful. Staying aware of your surroundings lowers the chances of a fire in your house. People love scented candles, but make sure you use them carefully. Don’t leave candles unattended and keep them away from flammable items. Also, it will be safer if you don’t smoke inside. Stay more than 25 feet away from the door and dispose of your cigarette butts in an ashtray or smokers’ pole.
You should still plan for emergencies. Establish two escape routes from every room and practice with your family or roommates to make sure everyone knows the plan. Also, show everyone in your house where to find the gas and power shut offs. To properly use a fire extinguisher, although the specifics may be different due to the extinguisher models, please stand six to feet away from the fire remember to PASS.
Pull: pull the pin at the top to break the tamper seal
Aim: aim the extinguisher low, pointing at the base of the fire
Squeeze: squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent
Sweep: sweep the extinguisher from side to side, continuing aiming at the base of the fire
Leverage Renters' Insurance for Fire Damage Today
Recovering from fire damage is a long process and you need comprehensive renters' insurance on your side. Use this guide to discover how renters' insurance covers you and your personal belongings from fire damage.
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