It's a curious way to commemorate an attempt to blow you up: encourage your subjects to light a load of fires everywhere. But that's what King James I did when he survived the Gunpowder Plot in 1605.
After Guy Fawkes and his collaborators were foiled in their attempt to blow up the Parliament building, the king passed the Observance of 5 November Act in January 1606, which day in future was to be marked by special church sermons and local bonfires.
All these years later, people still mark Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night on November 5 around a bonfire or with some fireworks in the garden. If you or your neighbours do this, will your home insurance cover you should all that fire get out of hand?
Will my insurance cover a Bonfire Night party?
The most common kinds of claims after Bonfire Night involve damage to the immediate area, including roof tiles, fences and garden furniture. Your home insurance policy should cover you if a fireworks display damages some part of your house or garden. If your fireworks damage a neighbour's property, then their home insurance policy should cover it.
Remember you need to check the policies of both parts of your home insurance, contents and buildings. Check with your provider if you're not sure what's covered.
What if someone gets hurt during a fireworks display?
A common concern is over whether insurance will cover a guest being injured at your party. Most home contents insurance policies, including ours, will have liability cover, so you should be. Because you have a duty of care to your guests, you need to warn them of any hazards.
However, most people should know what to expect at a party involving fire and rockets. As always, ask your insurance company if you're not sure about liability cover, particularly if you're inviting a large number of people.
And if you plan to charge for the party – it might be a fundraising event, for example – you won't be covered by your household policy and will need specialist event insurance for that evening.
While we humans might love fireworks for the pretty colours, lights and sense of occasion they offer, animals don't see it that way. To a cat or a dog, fireworks are just explosions, and they generally hate them. Many pets can see and hear much better than we can, so the light and noise overloads their finely tuned senses.
Most home contents policies probably won't cover pets as standard. You'll probably need pet insurance for that. But then it's best to keep them indoors.
Remember, remember – lock your windows
We usually get a few more claims for theft in November, as it seems all those empty houses and loud noises – perfect cover for sneaking around – on Bonfire Night are too much for burglars to resist. Make sure you lock all doors and windows before you go out to celebrate the foiling of Guy Fawkes' murderous scheme.
The best way to have a good Bonfire Night is to have a safe one. While you might expect a higher number of insurance claims for fire at this time of year, in 2022 only 4% of the total home fire claims were reported in November. That compares to highs of 12% and 16% in May and July respectively.*
If you are having a party on November 5, here are some bonfire and fireworks safety tips you should follow:
- Read the fireworks' instructions carefully.
- Only use fireworks marked BS 7114.
- Never start a bonfire using petrol or another accelerant.
- Build a bonfire away from anything which could catch fire, such as a shed or hedge.
- Don't throw spent fireworks on to the bonfire, as they may still have some unexpected explosive life left in them.
* AA Home Insurance fire damage claims data, January to December 2022.
Author: The AA. Published 24 October 2017. Updated 8 September 2023.