What Kind of Wildfire Damage Is Covered by Insurance?
Because wildfires and smoke damage can cause long-term destruction, it may take months or years to rebuild your home and community. Fire insurance can help cover home repair and replacement costs as you return to your normal routines. This type of coverage is part of the hazard insurance section and generally covers:
Fences, garages, or other structures
Additional living expenses
Trees, shrubs, and landscaping
Several policy options and types of protection exist. Although policies include fire damage, even the best homeowners insurance may not cover 100 percent of your out-of-pocket costs. Review your policy limits and deductible amount regularly to ensure you have the best protection.
Your house is the primary structure that your homeowners insurance covers. Your insurance company will pay for the cost of repairs or construction if wildfires damage or destroy your house. The amount they’ll pay depends on the coverage limits and deductible you choose when selecting your policy.
To know if you have enough coverage, check the coverage limits on your policy. It should equal the total cost to rebuild your home and its attached structures, such as a garage or carport.
Remember that construction and labor costs can change over time, so review your limits to keep up with current prices. Your policy may have been enough when you first purchased it, but it may not provide the protection you need now.
Other Structures Coverage
Home insurance policies can also cover “other structures.” This is the portion of your policy that protects structures or buildings on your property that are not attached to your home, such as:
Gardening or tool shed
If a clear space separates the structure from your home, your policy should cover it. Your policy might limit the coverage to 10 percent of the amount you have on your primary dwelling, but some insurers allow you to increase your other structures limit.
Personal Property Coverage
Wildfires destroy more than your home; your clothes, jewelry, furniture, and other personal belongings can also suffer damage. Homeowners insurance includes personal property coverage to help replace your belongings.
Your policy can limit the maximum payout for your items. It’s generally about 50 percent of your dwelling coverage limit, but some companies let you increase your limit.
Note that your policy limits might not be enough to replace jewelry, collectibles, or other expensive items. Consider adding a rider to protect your more expensive belongings.
Keeping a home inventory and taking pictures of more valuable items are helpful when filing an insurance claim. It’s a good idea to store this information away from your house or make it accessible online.
Trees and Landscaping Coverage
Most homeowners insurance includes coverage for trees, shrubs, plants, and other landscaping, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). Debris removal falls under this section, and your reimbursement limit can be a percentage of your dwelling coverage or a fixed dollar amount.
Keep in mind that policy limits may apply to landscaping restoration, too. A typical policy may pay no more than $500 per tree, shrub, or plant.
Your insurance may not cover the full cost if you had expensive landscaping, though additional coverage or an endorsement on your existing policy could increase your policy limits.