You’re driving home and you see smoke coming from a home in your neighborhood. Soon fire trucks are whizzing by you on the road and you get a sinking feeling in your stomach that your house is on fire.
Luckily, when you turn onto your street you realize it is not your house on fire. The house on fire is your neighbor’s. You immediately feel relief mixed with anguish for their loss.
But then as you see the mighty smoke plumes rising from their home and washing over yours you begin to wonder if your house is going to suffer smoke damage and if your insurance is going to cover it.
Here’s what you need to know about smoke damage from a neighbor’s fire.
How fire at a neighbor’s house can damage your house
First, we should discuss the various ways a fire at a neighbor’s house can damage yours.
There are several ways a fire at a nearby house can affect yours, with one of the primary ways being damage from smoke. Here are some of the more common ways a neighbor’s house fire can damage your home:
Fire Spread –
Even a little fire can soon grow into a large one, and it can spread even more quickly if the wind carries embers across your neighborhood. In dry conditions, a tree could soon burst into flames, creating a completely new scenario that could result in much more fire damage.
Burn stains –
Even a small fire at a neighbor’s house can produce ash stains on the outside of your home. These stains can be very hard to remove.
Smoke damage –
Large house fires will almost certainly produce a lot of smoke. If your residence is in the path of that smoke, the home may become contaminated and need to be professionally cleaned.
Hazardous debris –
Fires typically produce waste and other hazardous materials that float through the air and can drop on your property or residence in the same way that embers from a fire swirl and smoke from a fire wafts.
If your home does suffer damage from a neighbor’s house fire it is a serious matter that will need to be addressed swiftly as smoke and debris from a fire can be hazardous to human and pet health.
So what should you do if your home suffers smoke damage from a neighbor’s house fire?
The first thing you should do is contact your insurance company.
The good news is a typical homeowner’s insurance policy covers almost all fire and smoke damage. There are some ambiguities, but it makes little difference whether the fire started in your house or another neighboring structure.
However, you should always keep in mind that insurance will not cover fire or smoke damage if a fire is started on purpose by the homeowner.
That means your neighbor’s homeowners insurance won’t pay for their cost of repairs or replacement if the neighbor burns down their own home. But since you did not start the fire, it is likely that your homeowner’s insurance will still pay to repair any smoke damage that you suffered from the fire.
What types of smoke damage are covered by my homeowners insurance?
Standard homeowners insurance policies cover smoke damage in relation to the following things:
– Damage from smoke to the home’s walls and other structural components.
– Smoke damage to sheds and other buildings, such as fences.
– Smoke damage to clothing or electronic equipment that is personal property.
– Additional living costs in the event that smoke damage from a neighbor’s fire renders a home uninhabitable.
– The price of medical care for smoke inhalation.
Please keep in mind that every homeowner’s policy is different. The limitations of your policy and the seriousness of the circumstance determine how much smoke damage from a neighbor’s fire will be covered by your homeowner’s insurance.
To find out the maximums that can be paid for various types of smoke damage, check your policy. Contact your homeowner’s insurance agent to go over your coverage if you’re still unclear.
How to submit an insurance claim for smoke damage caused by a neighbor’s fire
You should take pictures of the smoke damage after the authorities have determined that your home is safe. Common signs of smoke damage to look for and document include rough, uneven varnishes and furniture coatings and discolored walls. Also, look for surfaces that may be covered in residue. Be sure to use a good camera to clearly document the smoke damage in your house.
To start a claim, get in touch with your insurance agent. Describe what happened and include any pictures you have. Keep your receipts and give copies to your insurance agent if you have out-of-pocket expenses, such as motel stays resulting from an unfit home.
With the help of a claims adjuster, your agent will probably set up an inspection of the damage and request estimates for its repair.
Be careful to ascertain whether getting estimates is something you are accountable for or something the insurance provider will manage.
Your homeowner’s insurance company will pay for the smoke damage caused by your neighbor’s fire if the claims adjuster has a clear understanding of what transpired and the expenses to make repairs to your house.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to suffering smoke damage from a neighbor’s fire, you generally should be covered for smoke damage as long as you’re not at fault or the fire was brought on by egregious negligence.
You can find out the specifics of your coverage by contacting your insurance company.
After contacting your insurance agency, the next hurdle you’ll have to clear is noting every way the fire has impacted your property.
You are not alone if the idea of making that call and dealing with all the paperwork that goes along with an insurance claim makes you cringe.
Although dealing with insurance companies and fire damage is unpleasant, it is a reality. Just be sure to proceed carefully and to pay attention to the small details.
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Photo by Viktor Talashuk on Unsplash