Think you’ll be able to claim on insurance if there’s a fire in your home? Think again.
While nearly all standard home insurance policies cover you in the event of a fire damaging your property and possessions, there are certain conditions which mean you may have invalidated your cover, perhaps without realising.
Fire claims among most common
The part of policy which covers you for fire is crucial as fire in a domestic home is relatively common.
Whether it’s caused by an overheating chip pan or chimney, a lighting strike, or a neighbour’s property going up in smoke, fire damage is one of the main reasons people claim.
Recent stats from UK insurer Aviva showed that fire is the fifth most common reason for a claim being made. And fire damage is usually pretty extensive, while remedial work doesn’t come cheap.
Average fire claim pay-out is £11,000
Figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) show that the average pay out by insurance companies to those claiming for fire damage is currently £11,000.
Imagine having to find £11,000 if you’ve somehow manage to invalidate your ability to claim for fire damage? Most people would struggle to.
Common reasons fire claims are rejected
Unfortunately, each year a number of policy holders have their claims rejected for damage caused by fire. Make sure you’re not one of them!
The most common reasons for a claim being turned down involve three areas: fire detectors, people who smoke and home improvements. Here’s why:
Many insurers offer small discounts on the cost of cover if a home has fire detectors as a fire that’s detected early is more likely to be put out quickly and cause less damage.
However, a good number of policies stipulate that if you’ve told your insurer you have fire alarms, they must work. If an insurer finds that a home’s fire detectors weren’t functioning correctly at the time of a fire, they might reduce the claim pay out, or even turn it down altogether.
When you take out cover, you’re asked if any smokers live in the house.
There may not be at the time, so you say no. But someone might then move into the home who is a smoker, such as a lodger or tenant in a shared property, or even a new partner, and you might overlook telling your insurer.
If there is subsequently a house fire, irrespective of whether smoking is the cause, and the insurer discovers there is a smoker in the property, a claim for fire damage could be denied. It would almost certainly be rejected if the fire were smoking related.
Major home improvements can be problematic because many homeowners forget that they need to tell their insurance provider about them.
If a fire were to occur during the building work, or after, but you hadn’t told the insurer about the additions, your claim would probably be denied.
It’s understandable from an insurer’s point of view. Adding a new loft bedroom, or extending into an adjoining garage and putting bedrooms above it, for example, increases the cost of re-building a home if it were completely destroyed (perhaps in a fire!). The insurer needs to take this into account when assessing how much of a ‘risk’ a property is, as you may need to pay more for your home cover.
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Published 12 June 2015