Arson is a serious crime that involves intentionally and maliciously setting fire to property. If your home is damaged or destroyed due to arson, you may be wondering if your homeowners insurance policy covers it. This article provides an overview of how arson impacts home insurance coverage.
What is Arson?
Arson is the criminal act of deliberately setting a fire with intent to cause damage. This could involve burning one’s own property, someone else’s property, or common/public property.
Some examples of arson include:
- Burning down your own home or business to collect insurance money
- Setting fire to a neighbor’s house out of spite or vengeance
- Lighting a private or public building on fire as an act of protest
- Intentionally igniting wildfires in forests and grasslands
Arson is a felony offense punishable by substantial fines and years in prison. All 50 states have laws prohibiting arson.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Arson?
In most cases, homeowners insurance will not provide coverage if the insured individual intentionally sets fire to their own property. This applies to both house fires and wildfires started by the policyholder.
Insurance companies consider arson an intentional act. Home insurance is designed to cover sudden, accidental damage like fires started by electrical faults, unattended cooking, or lightning strikes. It does not cover intentional losses caused by the policyholder’s own criminal actions.
There are a few scenarios where arson coverage may apply:
If someone else (not the policyholder) intentionally sets fire to the insured’s home, the damage may be covered. For example, if a neighbor commits arson against your property.
If a resident dependent or family member living in the home commits arson, the insurance may still pay, excluding payment to the individual who started the fire.
If the policyholder did not exhibit criminal intent, such as accidentally starting a fire while intoxicated or during a psychotic episode, the insurer may provide coverage.
The key factor is determining if the arson was committed by the policyholder versus someone else targeting the insured’s property maliciously.
How Insurers Investigate Suspected Arson
Insurers have special investigation units to detect fraudulent claims, including arson. If they suspect a house fire is not accidental, they will launch a thorough probe.
Some of the steps in an arson investigation include:
Assessing the fire scene to determine the exact origin and cause
Reviewing police and fire department reports
Interviewing witnesses to understand who was present and what occurred
Examining the homeowner’s financial records and potential motives
Inspecting the structural remains and debris to identify ignitable liquids or accelerants
Analyzing burn patterns that may indicate incendiary intentions
Ruling out electrical failures, appliance defects, chimney issues, lightning, and other standard fire triggers
The insurer must prove intent and reasonable motive before denying a claim due to suspicion of arson. If evidence is inconclusive, the company may still be obligated to provide coverage.
How Arson Can Impact Home Insurance
Committing arson insurance fraud carries serious repercussions beyond potential denial of your claim. Other impacts include:
Premium increases: Even if your claim is paid, your insurance company will likely consider you high risk after arson and raise your premiums significantly or drop you as a customer altogether.
Cancelled policy: Most insurers will non-renew your homeowners policy if you file a large claim for fire damage caused by arson.
Difficulty finding coverage: You may struggle to find affordable insurance in the future if you have an arson claim on your record. New companies will view you as inherently high risk.
Legal action: You can face criminal charges for arson, resulting in substantial fines, restitution, and jail time if convicted. This remains true even if the insurance company pays your claim.
Civil lawsuits: Insurers may sue you to recover claim payouts related to intentional arson. Victims can also file lawsuits and restraining orders.
Financial impacts: Besides legal and insurance troubles, you will still suffer the financial loss of your home and possessions being destroyed in an intentionally-set fire.
For these reasons, arson is an extremely high-risk crime that often ends disastrously for the perpetrators when insurance fraud is the aim.
Tips for Preventing Accidental Fires
While homeowners policies do not cover premeditated arson, they do protect you in case of accidental fires not caused intentionally. Here are some tips for preventing unintentional house fires:
Practice safe cooking – Stay attentive and avoid grease buildup when cooking. Keep flammable items like dish towels away from the stove.
Allow space around electronics – Don’t let lamps, curtains, and other combustibles make contact with bulbs and electronics that can overheat.
Inspect electrical systems – Check wiring for damage and don’t overload outlets. Upgrade old wiring as needed.
Use surge protectors – Install surge protectors to guard against electrical surges that can spark fires.
Clean the chimney – Have your chimney professionally cleaned annually to remove flammable creosote buildup.
Monitor candles – Never leave burning candles unattended and keep them away from drapes and upholstery.
Discard ashes safely – Always douse ashes from the fireplace or outdoor firepit with water before disposal.
Avoid smoking indoors – Don’t smoke cigarettes inside your home and always fully extinguish butts.
Install smoke alarms – Maintain working smoke alarms on every level of the home and in bedrooms.
Staying vigilant to reduce preventable fire hazards makes accidental fires far less likely. But if disaster does strike, standard home insurance has you covered. Just never resort to arson!
Frequently Asked Questions About Arson and Insurance
Does home insurance cover arson by a family member?
What Does Home Insurance Cover
Why doesn’t homeowners insurance cover arson?
What role do insurance companies play in arson cases?
Does homeowners insurance cover arson reddit?
What happens if someone else burns your house down?