LATVIA: Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers mandatory for every home

As of January 1st, 2020, Latvian legislation imposed mandatory smoke detectors for all residential buildings. Similarly, fire extinguishers became mandatory for every Latvian dwelling.

When concluding a home insurance contract, the owners are now obliged to mount such devices in their properties before buying the contract. Insurers will reserve the right to refuse the payment of property fire claims if the cause was a fire that could have been prevented with a smoke detector and put out in time, or at least weakened. This condition will be universally applied even if it is omitted from the contract papers, being considered as implied by the law, Latvian Association of Insurers (LAA) mentions.

According to the State Fire and Rescue Service of Latvia (VUGD) data, about 9,000 fires were registered in 2019 alone. More than 400 people were rescued by VUGD, 279 suffered injuries during these events, while 76 lost their lives (including 3 minors) during 2019. VUGD autopsy shows that many of the victims died as a result of smoke intoxication, not from physical burns.

As an attempt to prevent such tragedies, BTA Baltic Insurance Company VIG, the local non-life market leader (3Q2019: 33.7% non-life market share), distributed 10,000 smoke detectors free of charge to its customers. According to Karlis LIEPINS, Director of BTA Insurance Claims Department, the insurer has paid EUR 1.3 million for fire claims over the past three years. BTA faced a growing trend of fire claims over this period: EUR 328,283 in 2017, EUR 363,092 in 2018 and EUR 675,997 in 2019 (+86% y-o-y).

At the end of September 2019, for nine months ended, Latvian insurers wrote EUR 73 million (+8.7% y-o-y) property premiums and paid EUR 83 million (+165.6%) for property claims.

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