Can burning down your own property be arson?

Yes, burning your own property is arson. Intentionally setting fire to your own home or business can be considered a felony crime. Setting fire to one’s home for insurance money could have serious consequences. If caught, a person can be charged with criminal fraud and be sentenced to prison. There are instances where burning your own property is not arson, but you will need the necessary permits to set fire to your property. Learn more in our legal guide below.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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Yes, intentionally setting fire to your own home or business can be considered a felony crime. The act is commonly referred to as Arson Insurance Fraud as it frequently involves property owners burning down their homes or businesses to get insurance money.

As the economy has seen a downturn, foreclosure rates have increased in recent years. As a result, the number of homeowners setting fire to their properties to obtain insurance money has also risen. When faced with mounting mortgage bills, some have resorted to fraud.

According to the Insurance Research Council, the motive behind 14 percent of all arson cases is insurance money. For this reason, arson cases are taken very seriously by both police investigators and insurance companies. Many insurance companies even staff special departments for the purpose of investigating arson cases for fraud.

This type of insurance fraud may also be seen more frequently in areas of natural disasters. When homes and businesses are damaged, property owners may try to increase their insurance returns to pay for rebuilding.

Consequences of Arson Insurance Fraud

Setting fire to ones home for insurance money could have serious consequences and is never the answer. If caught, a person can be charged with criminal fraud and be sentenced to prison. Even if criminal charges are not sought, if a case of arson is found to be intentional, the insurance company does not legally have to pay a dime for the damage.

In addition, there are consequences for the overall insurance industry as these types of fraudulent insurance claims ultimately boost the cost of insurance for all policyholders.

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When It May Be Legal to Burn Your Own Property

There are situations when setting fire to your own property will not be considered arson. If the purpose is for farming or the like, and the necessary permits have been obtained or the necessary authorities have been informed, it will not be considered arson. However, if you are not in control of the fire and did not obtain the necessary authorization, you may be charged with criminally endangering your neighbors and/or the public.

The rules associated with this type of burning will vary from state to state, and even between jurisdictions, depending on climate and terrain conditions and whether the property is in an urban or rural setting. Always check your local laws (usually accessible through your state’s .gov website) before burning any property – big or small.

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