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Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Smoke Damage?

In most instances, homeowners insurance companies cover smoke damage from a fire that was sudden or unexpected.

Read Time: 7 mins

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Smoke damage can be absolutely devastating to a home. Smoke that lingers behind after a fire can become corrosive and ruin your home and the property within it. It can also cause long-term health issues and be hard to detect at first. The question remains, does homeowners insurance cover smoke damage?

Standard homeowners insurance will typically cover smoke damage that occurs from a fire, as a fire is considered a named and covered peril. It is important to respond to smoke damage immediately, as the longer it settles, the worse the damage becomes. 

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Continue reading to learn more about smoke damage and how your insurance company will handle a claim should you need to submit one.

Key facts
  • Smoke damage caused by a covered peril will be covered by your homeowners insurance policy.
  • Smoke damage caused by an expected cause, like a fireplace, is not covered by homeowners insurance.
  • Smoke damage should be documented in order to have a smooth and successful claim.

The effects of smoke damage

Fires can be devastating enough, but when there is a fire, there is also smoke. Smoke can wreak havoc on your home and cause a lot of damage even when the fire is out. Not only does smoke pose a health hazard, but it can also break down the integrity of your home. Common problems that occur from smoke damage are:

  • Mold growth
  • Ruined or damaged furniture, carpeting, and other personal belongings
  • Bad smell 
  • Health hazards and concerns

Each home is affected by smoke a little differently. Some homeowners have a hard time with their health due to the residual smoke, while others have a hard time due to the corrosive nature of smoke. 

The cost to mitigate smoke damage

Although it may be tempting to try to clear up smoke damage on your own, it is likely better to hire a professional to do so. The type of mitigation used is dependent on the items that are affected by the smoke damage itself. This means the mitigation can become expensive due to costs to:

  • Replace filters, drywall, and insulation
  • Replace or clean damaged furniture and appliances
  • Replace or clean carpeting
  • Replace or repair structural damage
  • Hire an expert to examine the home for any other damage or residual damage
  • Pay for living expenses for yourself or your tenant while the damage is mitigated

All of these expenses can add up very quickly. This is when it is beneficial to get homeowners insurance involved, as the smoke damage could be covered under the policy.

How to properly file a smoke damage claim

Before you pick up the phone to file a claim, you need to think about which type of homeowners insurance you have. This can affect the way you file a claim as a whole. 

For example, if you have personal property coverage, which is true for most homeowners insurance policies except for HO-1, you can include any of the damaged belongings in the claim. Personal property coverage is usually set at actual cash value by default so if that’s the case with your policy, you will receive the cost of the damaged items minus the cost of the depreciation. You will just need to pay the deductible amount. If your personal property coverage is set at replacement cost value, you will not need to worry about depreciation.

If you have homeowners or renters insurance, you must file the claim with the insurance provider themselves in order for it to be reviewed, assessed, and paid out. When filing a claim, the insurance company will need certain information. They will want to know how severely the house was affected, how much of the house was affected, and how long it took for the smoke to clear from the home. Sometimes, they will request video or photo evidence as well.

Once the company is satisfied with the evidence in hand, it will then accept the claim and cut a check. Remember, the check will cover the repairs and damage above the cost of the deductible. You are still responsible for the deductible.

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Smoke damage exclusions

Not all smoke damage will be covered by your homeowners insurance. This can be due to an exclusion listed in the policy, or because it originated from an area in which a fire typically would start, such as a fireplace or chimney. 

If smoke occurs from your wood stove, fireplace, or chimney, this is considered an expected circumstance. The chimney is there to bring the smoke up and out of the home. If it is not properly maintained, the smoke may not vent as well and result in damage. This is considered to be negligence which is not a covered cause for insurance.

Additionally, if a fire occurs due to a preventable action, such as using electrical equipment that you know is faulty, or starting a bonfire too close to your home, these incidents may not be covered. This is because it is considered negligence, and there is an expectation that an owner will provide basic maintenance to the property and adhere to all codes, laws, and ordinances before committing to an act.

On the other hand, the sudden and unexpected occurrence of smoke from a fire is considered to be a covered cause under insurance. This is because a housefire is often an event that is unexpected and unforeseen. A fire is a named peril in almost all insurance policies, too, making the smoke resulting from such a fire a coverable peril, as the covered peril resulted in the smoke that caused the damage.

Keep careful documentation

In order to file a claim for smoke damage, you need to keep careful documentation of the incident. Without this documentation, the insurance company may decide that they are unable to cover a claim. 

Taking photos, writing a letter explaining the event, keeping repair cost documents, and reporting a loss from a fire within 30 days to the insurance company, are all necessary measures to take in order to file a successful claim.

Get inspected

When battling smoke damage, it is essential to hire a professional inspector to examine your dwelling. They are trained to find even the smallest instances of damage and concern that could have been caused by the smoke that entered your home. 

Your insurance agency will also hire a professional inspector to examine your property as part of the claim process. It is important to have a second opinion, as the expert you hire can discuss their findings with the insurance company, which can result in an increase in the covered claim. As a homeowner, you cannot claim more issues are there as you do not have the professional expertise to do so. In the long run, the inspector is worth it to protect you and your asset further.

It isn’t a smoke out

Luckily, in most instances, the insurance company will cover smoke damage from a fire that was sudden or unexpected. This damage should be dealt with immediately so that you can minimize loss. If you are unsure whether or not your insurance will cover smoke damage, reach out to them. They will be sure to review the policy with you and help you decide whether or not you need more coverage.

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Katelyn is a freelance copy editor and writer based in Massachusetts. She holds Bachelor's Degrees in Business Administration and Political Science, both from Fitchburg State University, as well as a Master's Degree in Public Administration from UMass Amherst. In her free time, Katelyn enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family.
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