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What is Insurable Interest in Fire Insurance

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 06/02/2024
  • 2 min read

Imagine this scenario: you own a property that is insured against fire. One day, a fire breaks out and destroys your property. You file a claim with your insurance company, expecting to receive compensation for your loss.

However, the insurance company denies your claim, saying that you have no insurable interest in the property. How is that possible? How can you own a house and not have an insurable interest in it?

This is not a hypothetical situation. In many instances, the house owner had no insurable interest in it because he had transferred the ownership to his wife and children without informing the insurance company. Therefore, he could not claim any benefit from the fire insurance policy.

Let us find out in detail about this crucial aspect of a fire insurance policy.

How to Define Insurable Interest in Fire Insurance Policy

The basic principle of fire insurance is insurable interest. It means you have a legitimate stake or financial interest in the property or person you are insuring.

In other words, if you have insurance interest in a property, you would suffer a loss or damage if the insured event occurs, such as a fire.

Principle of Insurable Interest Example

Let us look at the insurable interest example to get this concept better:

Suppose you own a house; you have an insurable interest in it because you would lose money and value if it burned down.

Similarly, if you rent a house, you have an insurable interest in your belongings and furniture because you would have to replace them if they are destroyed by fire.

What are the Types of Insurable Interest in Insurance Law?

Generally, there are following four main types of insurable interest in a fire insurance policy:

Legal Insurable Interest

It is a type of insurable interest based on a legal right or obligation to insure a certain property or person, regardless of whether they have a financial interest.

For example, a mortgage lender has a legal insurable interest in the property they lend money for, even if they do not own it. They have a legal claim on the property in case of default or foreclosure.

Equitable Insurable Interest

Equitable insurable interest is based on a moral or beneficial relationship between the insured and the subject of insurance rather than a legal one.

It means that a person or entity reasonably expects to gain or lose from preserving or destroying the insured property or life.

Contractual Insurable Interest

This interest arises from the liability for the property. For example, if you are a contractor, a builder, or a repairer, you have a contractual insurable interest in the property you are working on.

Contractual insurable interest is usually associated with liability or third-party policies, which cover the policyholder against the legal liability for the damage or injury caused to the property or person of another party.

Statutory Insurable Interest

Statutory insurable interest is a type of insurable interest that is defined by specific laws that regulate insurance. It means that a person or entity has a legal right or obligation to insure a certain property or person, regardless of whether they have a financial interest or not.

For example, a spouse has a statutory insurable interest in their partner's life, even if they do not depend on their income. A landlord has a statutory insurable interest in the property they rent, even if they do not own it.

What are the Exceptions and Limitations of Insurable Interest in Fire Insurance?

Generally, there are four main exceptions and limitations of insurable interest in fire and burglary insurance. These are:

Alienation

It signifies that you lose your insurable interest in the property when you sell, donate, or give away the property to someone else. For example, if you own a house, insure it against fire, and then sell it to another person, you lose your insurable interest in it.

Subrogation

This provision implies that you lose your insurable interest in the property when you sue or claim compensation from the third party that caused or contributed to the fire. Then, you give up or pass on your right of recovery from the insurer to the third party.

For example, if you own a house and insure it against fire, and then the house is damaged by fire due to the negligence or fault of your neighbour, you lose your insurable interest in the house when you sue or claim compensation from your neighbour, and then you give up or pass on your right of recovery from the insurer to your neighbour.

Contribution

This exception means you reduce your insurable interest in the property when you co-insure, co-own, or co-occupy the property with another party that also insures, owns, or occupies the same property.

For example, if you own a house and insure it against fire, and then you co-own or co-occupy it with another person who also insures it against fire, you reduce your insurable interest in the house.

Contribution affects your insurable interest depending on the type and proportion of the insurance contract. Suppose the insurance contract is based on the principle of indemnity. In that case, the contribution will reduce your insurable interest and insurance claim to the extent that the other party has an insurable interest and an insurance claim on the same property.

Abandonment

This limitation means you lose your insurable interest in the property when you abandon, desert, or forsake the property, either voluntarily or involuntarily. For example, if you own a house and insure it against fire and then abandon it because of the fear or threat of fire, you lose your insurable interest in the house.

Abandonment affects your insurable interest depending on the type and reason of the abandonment. If the abandonment is voluntary, it will invalidate your insurable interest and insurance claim, as it implies that you have no intention or desire to preserve or protect the property.

When Should Insurable Interest Exist in Fire Insurance?

Generally, there are two possible points of time when an insurable interest should exist in fire insurance:

At the inception of the insurance contract

At the time of loss.

The inception of the insurance contract is when the policy becomes effective and binding, usually after the premium is paid and the policy document is issued. The time of loss is the moment when the fire occurs and causes damage to the property.

Why is Insurable Interest Necessary for Fire Insurance?

There are several reasons why insurable interest is essential for fire insurance, both for your benefit and for the insurer's benefit.

Validation

Without insurable interest, the insurance contract would be a wager or gamble, which is against the law and public policy.

Insurable interest ensures that the insurance contract is based on a genuine risk and legitimate purpose, not on a speculative or malicious motive.

If you have no insurable interest in the property, you have no right to insure it, and the insurer has no obligation to pay you in case of a fire loss.

Prevent Fraud and Abuse

Imagine if one could insure a property that they have no interest in and then collect the insurance money if it catches fire. One would have an incentive to cause or exaggerate the fire loss, either by themselves or by colluding with others.

This would harm the property owner, the insurer, and other policyholders, who would have to bear the cost of the fraudulent claims.

Ensure Fairness and Equity

Insurable interest ensures that the insurance payout is proportional to the actual loss suffered by the policyholder and not to the value of the property.

This means that the policyholder cannot make a profit from the insurance claim but only recover the amount of their interest in the property.

How to Protect and Enhance Insurable Interest in Fire Insurance?

Here are some ways to protect and enhance your insurable interest in fire insurance:

  • Disclose all the relevant and material facts and circumstances that affect your insurable interest, such as the ownership, possession, liability, benefit, or expectation of the property, and any changes or modifications that may occur during the insurance contract term.

  • Estimate or appraise the value of the property and any loss that the fire may cause and update or revise the value as necessary.

  • Request or obtain the insurer's consent to make any changes or additions to the insurance contract that affect your insurable interest, such as the inclusion or exclusion of perils, the increase or decrease of coverage, or the transfer or assignment of interest.

  • Take all the necessary and reasonable measures to prevent or minimise the occurrence or severity of the fire, such as installing or maintaining fire alarms, sprinklers, or extinguishers, following or complying with fire safety rules or regulations, or removing or eliminating fire hazards or sources.

Conclusion

Insurable interest is a key concept in fire & burglary insurance. It means one has a stake or interest in the property insured against fire. One cannot claim any benefit from the insurance policy if they have no insurable interest.

There are different types of insurable interest, such as legal, equitable, contractual, and statutory, and each has its own implications. Some situations, such as alienation, subrogation, contribution, and abandonment, can affect the existence or extent of insurable interest. Insurable interest must be present at the time of entering into the SME insurance policy contract and at the time of the fire loss.

Tata AIG offers fire insurance plans with comprehensive coverage at pocket-friendly rates.

FAQS

What is the principle of insurable interest?

The principle of insurable interest outlines that a person or entity can only obtain an insurance policy for a property or person if they would suffer a financial or other kind of loss in case of damage or death.

What are the three elements of insurable interest?

The three elements of insurable interest are:

A legal or equitable relationship between the insured and the subject of insurance.

A reasonable expectation of benefit or loss from the continued existence or destruction of the subject.

A valid and enforceable insurance contract that covers the subject

What is insured in fire insurance?

Fire insurance is a type of property insurance that compensates for losses and damages from fire. The insured in this insurance can be structures, machinery, stock, and personal belongings.

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Disclaimer / TnC

Your policy is subjected to terms and conditions & inclusions and exclusions mentioned in your policy wording. Please go through the documents carefully.

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