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Does home insurance cover fire damage?

Does home insurance cover fire damage?

Depending on which part of Australia you live in, you may be worried about the danger bushfires pose to your home and possessions. Thankfully, fire damage is usually included in the home insurance policy most Australian insurers offer.  It’s a good idea to check if the insurance policy you’re interested in includes coverage for any damage to your home caused by the smoke or ash generated by a fire. You may need to sign up for extra coverage if these are either not included or are inadequately covered. If you do live in a bushfire-prone area such as parts of Northern Australia or New South Wales your home insurance policy may cost you more.

It is likely that the damage from a fire will affect not just the exterior of your home but also the things inside, which makes it necessary for you to ensure your possessions are insured against fire damage. While you can opt for separate insurance policies for your home and your belongs, you may find it cheaper to buy a home and contents insurance policy. You can compare the cost of the two policies, and even compare with the cost of standalone fire and smoke damage insurance before you make your decision.

Do home insurance policies always include bushfire damage?

As a homeowner, ensuring that your home is protected against bushfire damage is an important consideration for financial reasons as well. Insurers are also clued in on the cost of repairing or rebuilding necessary after a bushfire and will invariably offer you a policy that includes coverage for bushfire-related damage. Ideally, you should check the kind of damage bushfires have caused in your area in the past to get an idea of the cost of the damage. You can get home insurance policy quotes by providing your postcode; compare the different policies to see which one offers the most adequate coverage for bushfire damage.

Consider doing some research on your home’s Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) Rating, which uses a scale to determine the risk of your property’s exposure to damage from the embers, heat, and flames from a bushfire. The BAL rating is determined by your local council and varies from BAL LOW, which indicates insignificant risk, to BAL FZ, which indicates that your property may be exposed to the fire front in addition to embers and heat. Depending on the rating, you may be required to pay a much higher insurance premium.

How can you file a claim for fire damage insurance?

If your home is affected by a bushfire, you should file your fire damage insurance claim as soon as possible in order to speed up the processing and, subsequently, the rebuilding or renovation. You will likely need to consult your insurer before you start with any repairs, even those needed to avoid additional fire damage. You should consider taking photographs and collecting any repair receipts as these can be submitted as evidence along with your insurance provider’s fire and smoke damage insurance claims form. You may also need to submit a list itemising the damage caused to your home.

On receiving your claim, your insurance provider will ask an insurance adjuster to visit your home and verify the damage caused. This can involve gathering further information including repair or rebuilding quotes from building contractors who are part of the insurer’s network. The adjuster may also help organise temporary repairs as necessary, and also initiate the claim calculation. If you are not satisfied with the claim amount offered by the adjuster, you can choose to corroborate their findings by asking a public adjuster to evaluate the damage and the cost of necessary repairs and rebuilding.

You will likely need to negotiate your claim with your home insurance provider, especially in case the public adjuster’s evaluation differs from that prepared by the insurer’s adjuster. Through this negotiation, you can confirm with the insurer the amount they’ll pay you depending on whether your insurance policy covers the total replacement cost of your home or an insured sum. Based on this negotiation, your insurer will either pay you a cash settlement or refer you to one of their network contractors for the repairs or rebuilding work. You may be able to get the work done by your preferred contractor if you’ve added this optional coverage to your home insurance policy.

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This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Georgia Brown before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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Learn more about home insurance

Is hail damage covered by home insurance?

If storms are among the incidents covered by your home insurance policy, hail damage protection is more than likely assured. While all policies differ based on your needs and what a home insurance provider will offer, some things are close to a certainty. 

Extreme weather events tend to be unpredictable in their severity, but dangerous all the same. You'll never be able to fully prepare for any damage caused, be it lightning, strong winds, rain leading to flooding, or hailstorms, but home insurance can at least provide you with a way to deal with life's unpredictable nature. 

If your home suffers from hail damage, you can file a claim with your insurer. In the event that this happens, remember to take pictures of any hail damage as an insurance adjuster will need to evaluate the impact on your home. Any additional wind damage to your roof will also need to be documented similarly.

You may want to check if your home insurance also covers hail damage to the cars parked on your property, and then file the claim for the total damage caused by the hailstorm. Once your claim is approved, your insurer should offer you either a cash settlement or refer you to a network vendor for the necessary repairs.

Is my home insurance covered for weather damage?

It is important to understand what is covered and what isn't covered in your home insurance policy before purchasing it. One crucial point to consider at the time of evaluating home insurance policies is whether it includes home insurance weather damage cover, and what it actually means if it does.

Typically, the protection afforded by home insurance actually depends on how the home was damaged or affected by conditions. The whole idea behind home insurance is to protect you from loss or damage against an unexpected, sudden event, like a fire or storm. If your home was in the way of a storm and your roof was damaged, which also caused internal water destruction, you may be covered for the damage to the roof and the property. The same holds true for walls or a fence that got damaged in a storm or flood.

However, you may not be covered if the damage occurred because your property was not well maintained and your home suffered a leak. A poorly maintained fence is less likely to be covered by home insurance.

Does home insurance cover tree root damage?

While trees can add much beauty to your property, they can be an indirect cause of damage to your home. For instance, a storm could knock branches off trees on to your roof or windows. A really strong storm may even cause the tree to topple entirely. 

Home insurance may not directly cover tree damage to your house. However, the policy will likely cover the incident, such as a storm, which resulted in branches or uprooted trees falling on your home. You can check your home insurance policy’s coverage for various incidents by reading the insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS).

You should remember that trees can require regular maintenance, just like the plumbing in our homes. Insurers may check whether the tree, its roots or its branches were rotting due to a lack of care, in which case the damage caused by the tree falling on your home may not be considered accidental damage. Again, if a branch falls on your house while you’re trimming it, you may not be able to claim compensation from your insurer for the damage. If any trees are growing too close to the walls of your home, consider checking that none of the branches or roots is causing any stress to your home, which can result in structural damage.

Can an insurer deny a lightning damage insurance claim?

Most Aussie insurance providers include lightning strikes among the incidents covered in their home and contents insurance policies. However, they’ll probably confirm whether you could have prevented the damage caused by the lightning strike before approving your lightning damage insurance claim.

For instance, lightning strikes may cause damage to appliances in your home and affect the working of your fridge or other appliances with a motor or compressor. If you have not purchased fusion damage cover, your lightning damage claim could be denied.

Also, if you live in an area where lightning storms are more likely to occur, but you did not take any steps to protect your home and appliances against potential lightning damage, your insurer may not accept your lightning damage insurance claim. This can include installing equipment to guard against electrical surges or maintaining the trees on your property to prevent damage to buildings from trees or branches felled by lightning. You should check with the insurance provider on the measures you can take to prevent lightning damage, before buying the policy.

Does home insurance cover lightning damage?

Lightning strikes are usually among the events included in the home insurance policies offered by various Australian insurers. For instance, if your home gets hit by lightning and there’s a power surge which knocks out your television or other electronic items, your home insurance provider should compensate you after confirming that the damage was caused by the lightning strike, which you could not have prevented. Likewise, if a lightning strike causes a tree branch to break off and harm any of the permanent fixtures on your property, you may be eligible to file a lightning damage insurance claim.

You should check if your insurer requires you to buy additional coverage or take measures to protect against lightning damage. For instance, your claim for lightning damage to a fridge or another appliance with a motor or compressor may be denied if you have not purchased fusion damage cover.

How do you compare home insurance rates?

When you compare the home insurance quotes offered by various Australian insurers, consider looking at the type of coverage they offer as well as coverage limits and exclusions. You can choose an insurance policy which covers either the total replacement cost, which is the actual cost of rebuilding your home from scratch, or a fixed insured sum, which is an estimate of the cost to rebuild. The home insurance policy is likely to cost you more if you go for the total replacement cost coverage.

Your insurance policy’s exclusions and coverage limits usually depend on how exposed your home is to adverse events like floods and bushfires. It also tells you the maximum compensation that your insurer is likely to pay for damage caused to your home. If you live in an area with a greater incidence of crime or disasters, your insurance policy will likely cost you more.

The amount you actually pay for home insurance can be adjusted by agreeing to a higher excess, which is what you will pay over and above the insured amount from your own pocket. You should consider using the online calculators provided by various insurers to check how different coverage limits affect your insurance premium.

Does home insurance cover tenant damage?

If you have a property that you rent out to tenants, you may ask, does home insurance cover tenant damage? Generally, as a landlord, you’ll require a different type of insurance policy than a regular home and contents insurance that offers coverage for the unique situations faced by landlords.

Landlord insurance

As a landlord, you must insure against additional risks to protect your investment. A landlord home and contents insurance policy covers loss due to natural disasters, storm, and fire. Generally, it also covers fixtures like stovetops, light fittings, window coverings, carpets, and ovens.

Additionally, you may protect yourself against any loss arising due to damage to your property caused by your tenants or their guests. Some landlord insurance policies may also protect you against financial loss due to unpaid rent.

Does homeowners insurance cover tenant damage? In most cases, regular homeowners’ insurance policy will not cover such damage. It’s always best to refer to the product disclosure statement (PDS) to clearly understand what is included and excluded from your home insurance policy.

What is a home insurance premium?

Your home insurance premium is what you pay your insurance provider for covering your home under their home insurance policy. It is calculated based on the type of coverage you choose for your home as well as any additional coverage you buy for either your possessions or specific incidents. Your premium can either be paid annually or in smaller instalments. 

Your home insurance policy may cover the total replacement cost, which is the actual expense of rebuilding your home from scratch. Alternatively, it can cover an insured sum, which is a predetermined estimate of what it might cost to rebuild your home. You’re more likely to pay a higher premium for total replacement cover than for insured sum coverage.

Apart from selecting your coverage, you’ll have to figure out your excess, which is the amount you pay out of your own pocket for each insurance claim. If you are okay with paying a higher excess, your insurance premium may be lower. Conversely, if you choose a lower excess, you may pay a higher premium. 

Your insurance premium can also be higher if you live in an area prone to incidents like floods, bushfires, or theft, as insurers are more likely to receive a higher number of claims in such neighbourhoods. 

If you also want to buy insurance for your belongings, a combined home and contents insurance policy may have a lower premium than paying premiums on separate policies for your home and your belongings. 

Does home insurance cover accidental damage?

Home insurance offers cover for any damage to your house and most policies cover the main building, garage, permanent attachments, and other external buildings that can be locked. 

Every insurance policy lists the defined events that will be covered, such as fires, floods, lightning strikes, theft, or falling trees. A few may also offer the option of accidental damage home insurance cover for other possible mishaps and unintentional damage around the home, such as when the dog knocks over the TV, or when red wine is spilled on the carpet.

The home insurance accidental damage cover is available only for the address provided at the time of buying the policy. 

How to file a Youi home insurance claim

Dealing with a disaster is never a pleasant experience, but it can be worse if your home is extensively damaged. At some point, you’ll have to estimate the damage to your home and file the necessary insurance claim. 

If you’ve bought a Youi home insurance policy, you can contact them regarding an insurance claim either by calling 13 9684 or through the Youi website. If you don’t remember your policy number, you can identify yourself and provide your address when speaking to a Youi member to grant yourself access to your policy details, handy if you’ve had to leave home in a rush and may not have had the time to collect any of your belongings, let alone insurance policy documents. 

You may not need to fill out any claim forms right away, but you’ll need to describe the incident and the damage caused to your home. Once you’ve contacted Youi, an inspector will visit your home and verify the damage before your claim is accepted and processed. Insurers usually expect you to contact them at your earliest possible convenience after a damaging incident, or within 30 days at the latest, as is the case with Youi

Does home insurance cover termite damage?

It is unlikely that the average home insurance policy will cover damage caused by termites, mice, or other vermin, which are typically the result of negligence. For instance, water may have seeped from a heater or washing machine and dampened the woodwork in your home, attracting termites. Since termites usually build colonies, you’ll need to deal with the existing infestation and also take preventative steps to prevent future termite damage.

Treating your home for termite damage can be quite expensive, and you’ll likely have to make significant repairs depending on the size of the infestation. You may want to check if your neighbours have also had termite damage issues, and consider taking more long-term measures to keep termites away.  For example, you could install a chemically-treated soil barrier or baiting station, both of which may be effective for a few years. 

Consider inspecting your home  for any leakage or seepage from time to time, especially in the flooring or the outer edges of your home, as a precaution against damage by vermin. You may also want to consider hiring a pest control professional who can inspect and treat your home to protect against termites.

Does home insurance cover temporary accommodation?

Seeing your home damaged by a natural disaster such as a bushfire or a hail storm can be traumatic. Unfortunately, sometimes your house may become uninhabitable after such an incident and require major renovation or even rebuilding. In such circumstances, your home insurance policy should cover the cost of temporary or emergency accommodation. 

It's worth checking with your insurer on the coverage limit, as different insurance providers may cover the cost of renting another home for a number of months, though this will vary between coverage cost and insurance provider. However, the maximum coverage will probably run for 12 months. Upon filing a claim, most insurers will likely first ask an inspector to confirm that your home is too damaged to live in, and subsequently cover the cost of temporary accommodation after that. 

You could also need temporary accommodation because the local council or other governing authority may order an evacuation in anticipation of a problem or disaster. In that instance, you should check if your insurance provider will cover the cost of accommodation at such a time and, if so, how you can file a claim in such cases. If you are a pet owner, check if your home insurance policy covers the cost of temporarily housing your pets elsewhere.

Does homeowners insurance cover structural damage?

The most common causes of structural damage to a property include foundation issues such as settling or ground shifting, hidden structural damage, such as caused by termites, or weather-related damage, like by a tornado or hurricane.

If you’re wondering if structural damage is covered by homeowners insurance, you’re probably not going to like the answer. Most insurance providers don’t include structural damage in home insurance policies because they build the polices to offer protection from loss due to sudden, accidental events, such as fire, burglary or weather-related damage. It can take months or even years for you to discover most foundational or structural damage to your property, and by that time, they become rather costly to repair.

Since it takes a long time to detect, most structural damage is considered a maintenance issue and therefore, your home insurance policy won’t cover it. However, all is not lost. Once you locate the damage and take the necessary steps to not only repair it but also prevent further harm, your insurance policy might cover any subsequent loss. For example, if the foundation has cracks, and it lets water into your home, the water damage could be covered by insurance, but the cracks themselves would not be.

Does homeowner’s insurance cover electrical problems?

Every home has a range of electrical fittings,appliances and wiring running through the structure of the house. You can face many kinds of electrical problems but, unfortunately, your home insurance policy may not cover all of them. Damage accidentally caused by natural accidents may be covered, as might the repair of motors if you have opted for fusion damage cover. For example, if there’s a lightning storm and your home suffers a power surge which causes a short circuit, any repairs needed may be covered if your homeowner’s insurance contains lightning damage.

However, if any electrical appliances stop working, even a home and contents insurance policy may not cover the cost of repairing the appliance. Also, you should check with your insurer about making any electrical repairs inside your home as that may affect your coverage. 

Usually, in Australia, you need to hire a professional electrician to carry out any inspections or repairs to the electrical system in your home. This can include conducting periodic checks to make sure the electrical wirings are not exposed to seepage, flooding, or attacks by rodents. Consider asking your insurance provider about optional coverage for fixed electrical appliances such as air-conditioners and washing machines.