Fire and home insurance

Fire is one of the biggest home insurance risks. So make sure you have the right cover.

Kim Jones
Kim Jones
Updated 6 February 2023  | 5 mins read
Reviewed by Jasmine Hembury

What is home fire insurance?

Fire insurance is included in home insurance policies. It covers damage and losses to your home caused by fire or smoke.

Key points

  • Fire prevention measures can help keep your home safe and lower your insurance premiums
  • Store insurance document details and emergency numbers somewhere that is easy to locate if there was a fire
  • Call your insurer as soon as possible to report fire damage

Does home insurance cover me for fires?

Yes, buildings insurance can cover the cost of repairing, rebuilding or replacing any part of your home’s structure that’s damaged by fire and smoke.

If you have contents insurance, your belongings will be covered too.

What isn’t covered?

Although fires are usually covered by home insurance, avoid doing anything that would invalidate your claim:

Unoccupied properties

You might not be covered if you’re away from home for more than 30-60 days (depending on the policy), unless you’ve already told your provider and have taken out unoccupied home insurance.

That’s because unoccupied properties are more vulnerable to break-ins and arson.

Even if you’re redecorating or renovating and visiting your home every day, your insurer might still class it as unoccupied if you’re not sleeping in it.

Smoke and heat detectors

You’ll be asked about heat detectors and smoke alarms when you take out home insurance and may be offered a discount if you have them installed in your property.

You need to make sure they’re working and tested regularly though. Be careful that you don’t take out the batteries and forget to replace them.

If it’s found your smoke or heat detectors weren’t working, it could affect any claim you make for fire damage.

Work and renovations

You must tell your insurer if you’re having major work or renovations done.

Home improvements could increase the rebuild cost of your home, and things like adding bedrooms are a sign of higher occupancy which can make the fire risk greater.

There’s also the fire risk associated with the work itself, especially if it’s structural or electrical.

Your insurer will want to know so it can assess your risk and price accordingly. If you fail to tell your provider, it could invalidate your claim.


Being a smoker won’t invalidate your home insurance, but if you lie about the fact that you or anyone you live with smokes, your insurer could refuse any claim caused by a lit cigarette.

According to latest government statistics for England, smokers’ materials - things like lighters, cigarettes, cigars or tobacco - were the cause of 7% of accidental house fires and 24% of fire-related fatalities from April 2021- March 2022. Your insurer will want to take this additional risk into account when pricing your policy.

Am I covered if my home catches fire due to arson?

This is a tricky one, because in some situations where arson occurs, you may not be able to make a claim.

Arson is sometimes committed to fraudulently collect insurance money. So providers will want to investigate cases fully before paying out.

If it’s determined that the fire wasn’t started by the policyholder, their family members or anyone working in their interests, and that it was a crime committed by someone with no links to or interest in the claim, the insurer will usually pay out for fire damage.

How much will my insurance cover if there’s been a fire?

It depends on how much your particular home insurance policy covers you for.

When you buy buildings insurance you should ensure the rebuild value stated on the policy is enough to cover the cost of rebuilding your home from the ground up should your property be totally destroyed. The rebuild cost is a different amount to the property’s market value and should be stated in the mortgage valuation report or surveyor’s report.

For contents insurance, you need to make sure you have enough cover in place to replace all your contents as new.

To get an accurate figure for the value of your contents, walk around your property, making a list of everything including carpets, curtains, clothes and tech, then add up their total cost. Our contents insurance calculator can help you with this.

If you underestimate the value of your possessions, you could be left out of pocket if you need to make a claim.

Fire is one of the most expensive home insurance claims. Latest figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) show that £1.3 billion was paid out to customers for fire damage in 2018.

How can I protect my home from a fire?

  • Fit smoke alarms in every room where a fire could start and on each floor of your home. Test them regularly to make sure they work correctly. Many local fire services offer free fire safety visits and fit smoke alarms for householders. Mains powered alarms should always be fitted by a qualified electrician.
  • Fit a heat detector in your kitchen - it will go off if the room reaches a certain temperature but, unlike a smoke alarm, won’t be set off by cooking fumes.
  • If you’re a smoker, smoke outside rather than indoors, and never in bed. Never leave a lit cigarette unattended.
  • Don’t leave cooking food unattended and refrain from putting anything metal in the microwave.
  • Don’t overload electrical sockets and unplug electrical appliances when they’re not in use.
  • Only use candles and tealights in sturdy heat-resistant holders and keep them away from anything that could catch fire, like curtains or papers. Always be sure to extinguish them before you leave the room.

What to do if you there’s been a fire at your home

  • Get out of the house and contact the emergency services on 999.
  • Contact your insurer as soon as possible after the event. Many insurers have 24-hour helplines and can advise you on next steps. You may be provided with an emergency advance to cover things like alternative accommodation, clothing and toiletries.
  • A loss adjuster will normally be sent to your property to assess your claim and estimate the cost of repairs.
  • If you need to arrange emergency repairs to stop damage to your home from getting worse, tell your insurer and keep receipts for the work.
  • Take photos and videos as evidence of damage for the claim.

What do insurers classify as a fire?

An incident would be classed as a fire if there were actual physical flames. Something like an iron scorching your clothes or hair straighteners burning your carpet would be classified as accidental damage, rather than fire damage - so if you had this type of cover on your home insurance policy, you could claim under that.

Accidental damage cover can usually be added as an optional extra to your home insurance at additional cost.

Will I pay more if my property is at greater risk of fire damage?

If you live in a home that’s at particular risk from fire damage – like a thatched roof house - you’ll typically have to pay more for home insurance than people who live in a property of standard construction.

As well as the higher risk of fire, insurers will take into account the fact that the materials used to make thatched roofs are more expensive than those used on standard homes. Skilled specialists would be needed to make repairs to a fire-damaged thatched roof, too, which would be costly.

Some standard home insurers won’t cover a home that’s at higher risk of fire, so you’d need to look for specialist insurers willing to take on the risk.

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