Fire Pits in Metro New York: What Home and Renter Policies Will and Won’t Cover

Jul 26, 2019

26 Jul
Co-op Insurance, Homeowners Insurance, Renters Insurance

Fire Pits in Metro New York: What Home and Renter Policies Will and Won’t Cover

by James Elliot

Outdoor patio fireplaces, hearths, fire pits, chimineas — anything that includes the open burning of wood — are strictly prohibited in New York City.

This may surprise you. They’re sold by major retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot across the city, and in some areas fire pits are in common use — looking at you Brooklyn. But this does not mean that they are legal, or that your insurance policy will cover you if your fire gets out of control and hurts someone or causes damage.

If you do use a fire pit or similar contraption in an area where they’re prohibited and your home is damaged or someone is injured by the fire, your homeowners, renters, co-op or condo insurance policy will not cover your losses. 

Specific laws exist in NYC regarding what kinds of barbecues are allowed, but that’s a topic for another blog post. Just note that any piped natural gas installation in NYC requires an application to the Fire Department and approval from the Department of Buildings. 

What about in areas outside NYC where fire pits are legal? 

Let’s say you live in Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester or Orange counties. First, check with your local municipality to find out if open fires are legal, and if so if there are any permit requirements. Once you’ve established that it’s legal in your area, it’s time to make sure your insurance policy is providing the proper protection. (If you’re a renter, co-op or condo owner, make sure the fire pit is allowed in your building.)

The coverages on a standard homeowners insurance policy will likely offer protection for risks associated with a fire pit, but that depends on the kind of fire pit you have and the coverages in your policy. 

If a guest trips and falls into the fire put, the guest medical liability coverage on your policy will likely help pay for their doctor bills. Damages caused by flying embers igniting a fire on a neighbor’s property would likely be covered (or partially covered) by your policy’s liability protection. Still, you need to know the limits on your policy to make sure they meet your needs. Check with your agent to see if your policy will require any changes.

Fire Pit Safety Tips

First: do not try and build a fire pit on your own. It may seem pretty simple, but some kinds of stone or brick can explode when they reach a certain temperature. 

Second: keep your fire pit away from building overhangs, low hanging tree branches, the house and the garage, and any flammable substances like a barbecue propane tank.

Additionally, the National Fire Protection Association recommends:

  • Checking the direction of the wind before lighting a fire
  • Not using flammable liquids to start your fire
  • Not wearing (or allowing guests to wear) flammable clothing like nylon or loose-fitting clothes
  • Not using softwoods (pine and cedar are most common) because they give off lots of sparks and embers
  • Keeping pets and children at least 3 feet from the fire at all times 

Metro NYC Homeowners, Renters and Condo Insurance

TSC Direct has provided Metro New York City residents with home, condo, co-op and renters insurance since 1986. Our motto is “for New Yorkers, by New Yorkers” because we understand the unique needs of our community. 

We are known for superior service, lower rates, and a simple and efficient claims process. When possible, we deliver claims checks to NYC residents by hand rather than putting them in the mail.

We write homeowners insurance policies for residents living in Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Staten Island, as well as Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester and Orange counties.

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