Does my policy cover smoke damage?

A common question in the aftermath of fire disasters is whether there is any smoke damage and whether it's covered by insurance.  The typical property policy will cover the cost to abate smoke and ash damage to both structural and personal property.

Even if the property looks fine, there very well could be invisible smoke damage.  If the property was near a large fire, or part of the property suffered a fire loss, there is a good chance there is smoke damage.

If you can smell smoke inside the home, chances are there is significant smoke damage.  Smoke damage can often be so bad that it renders the entire property a total loss, triggering a policy limits claim.

Even if smoke damage is not apparent, it is important to get the property thoroughly tested as it may be hidden.  The insurer will likely pay for the inspection, but be skeptical and do your best to ensure the investigator is properly qualified and does a full and fair inspection.  You should be sure that the investigator checks all of the following:

  • Roof
  • Windows
  • Sheetrock
  • Steel/iron in the structure
  • Siding
  • Stucco
  • Concrete
  • Appliances
  • Landscaping
  • Plumbing
  • HVAC
  • Interior components
  • Wood
  • Flooring
  • Marble

 If you feel you need your own expert, the cost is typically $2,000-$6,000.  

If smoke damage is covered under your policy, it is vitally important to make your insurance claim as soon as possible, because insured's must make claims within specific time limits in order to receive benefits under their policies.  Failing to realize there is smoke damage is not an excuse for missing those deadlines, as the presence of smoke in the home may be enough to trigger the time limitations periods to run.  See Jangozian v. Farmers Ins. Exch., 2015 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 3723 (May 28, 2015).