Did you know that over 358,500 home fires occur in the United States every year?
That’s more than 41 fire incidents every hour!
This burning house could be my home, your home, or your neighbor’s home. With wildfire season becoming more and more intense due to climate change, entire communities can be engulfed with uncontrolled fires. (Related reading: does insurance cover wildfire damage?)
With that thought, many people question what actually happens if a neighbor’s fire spreads to their house. Who is accountable for the losses?
Well, if you are looking for a detailed answer to your question, then this article is exactly what you are looking for.
In this article, we will answer one of the most frequently asked questions regarding home fires, which is “who pays when a neighbor’s fire spread to your home?”
So without further ado, let’s jump right into it.
Who Compensates Me For My Damages If A Neighbor’s Fire Spreads To My Home?
When a neighbor’s fire spreads to your home, your homeowner’s insurance still covers the damages. That said, your insurance company may seek compensation from your neighbor if there was a negligent cause. A fire investigator helps determine the cause of fires and who is liable for damages.
Generally, when a fire starts, it’s one of two reasons:
We all know a neighbor or two who completely disregard fire safety best practices such as regularly removing dead vegetation and mowing the lawn, designating a safe space, properly storing flammable materials like gasoline and paint thinner, etc.
In this situation, your neighbor is liable for all the damage caused to your property.
Here is how it goes: you will contact your own homeowners’ insurance provider and tell them exactly what happened.
Once you do that, your insurance company will compensate you for any damage caused to your property and help you recover your lost belongings and rebuild your home.
Then, they will go after your neighbors’ insurance provider and ask them to pay for the cost of repairing your home because their client (your neighbor) is the one who started the fire.
In other words, your insurance company will pay you first, then go after your neighbor’s insurance provider and collect back what they paid.
Further, you can also file a claim with your negligent neighbor’s insurance company and ask them to compensate you for other expenses such as insurance deductibles and living costs. In this scenario, you may need to retain an attorney.
If your neighbor has taken all fire prevention precautions, yet the fire still spread to your home, then your neighbor is no longer liable and you have to seek compensation from your insurance provider.
Anyhow, in both cases, your insurance company is the one responsible to pay for the restoration and rebuilding of your damaged belongings.
But what if you don’t have a homeowner’s insurance policy, what to do in this situation?
Well, that’s exactly what we will answer in the next section.
What If I Don’t Have Insurance?
If a fire spreads to your home because of natural causes, then you, unfortunately, won’t get any compensation and you will have to pay for all your expenses including your mortgage.
On the other hand, if your neighbor in any way was responsible for causing or spreading the fire to your house, then all you need to do is to file a claim with your neighbor’s insurer and they should compensate you for your losses.
It’s important to mention that if you didn’t follow fire prevention codes, this leaves you vulnerable to lawsuits from your neighbors if you spread fire to their houses. So keep that in mind.
What If Neither Party Has Insurance?
If your home caught fire due to your neighbor’s negligence, then your neighbor is responsible for your home damage and you can sue him/her to recover your expenses.
However, it’s important to mention that the lawsuit can take several years of negotiation and litigation to get your money back. You will need to cover the immediate costs of damage until this happens.
For this reason, if you don’t have a homeowner’s insurance policy, we strongly advise you to get one immediately.
How To Make A Fire Insurance Claim?
1. Inform Your Insurance Provider
The first thing you need to do is to contact your homeowner’s insurance provider as fast as possible and tell them exactly what happened without sparing any detail or exaggerating.
2. Estimate Your Losses
After contacting your insurance provider, now it’s time to estimate your losses.
Keep track of every lost item, take pictures, and evaluate how much it will cost to replace or repair (if possible).
Make sure to not repair or dispose of any damaged items, as you will need evidence of loss when your insurance company representative comes to your home to inspect the damaged items and make a thorough report of the losses and their value.
Pro Tip: Keep an up-to-date home inventory that has detailed information of all your valuable belongings in addition to receipts and pictures, so you can file them with the claim.
3. Play The Long Game
Without a doubt, suffering from fire damage is a very stressful situation for anyone.
And insurance companies use this to their advantage.
They will hurry to close your case while you are still in shock, knowing that you definitely overlooked or forget to list down a valuable thing or two in your initial claim.
Therefore, when it comes to closing an insurance claim, it’s always better to take your time, so you make sure you are not forgetting anything. By hiring your own fire restoration service, professionals can help estimate the costs of your losses. Restoration services are still covered by your insurance, so it’s best to call a professional before closing your claim. Be sure to check out our 7 things to do after a fire.
Does fire insurance cover negligence?
The short answer is NO.
If the fire investigation report showed that the incident is caused due to negligence, then your insurance company won’t pay for damages and you will be liable to compensate your neighbors for any losses.
Does Home Insurance Cover Damage to a Neighbor’s Property?
Yes, in addition to your home structure and personal belongings coverage, fire insurance policies have something called personal liability, which covers your neighbor’s property damage if you didn’t cause the fire on purpose.