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Home Insurance Protection Extended For Californians In 2020 Wildfire Zones

vela smoke from happy camp.jpg
Jasen Vela
Mt. Shasta News
Smoke billows from the Slater Fire from the U.S. Forest Service's Ranger Station in Happy Camp at about 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020.

For Californians living in areas of high wildfire risk, getting home and rental insurance can be a challenge. A new protection prohibits insurance companies from dropping their customers’ home policies for one year if they were affected by fires in 2020.

The new moratorium on cancelling insurance policies ensures that home owners and renters can’t have their insurance dropped if they live in an area included in a wildfire emergency declaration in 2020 or in an adjacent zip code.

“This new law protects people who suffer from a less-than-total loss, or may not even have damage on their home but have gone through this ordeal of evacuation, fleeing a fire, probably seeing their neighbors’ homes burn in many cases,” says Michael Soller with the California Insurance Department.

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara enacted the law this year, which he authored as a state senator in 2018. It applies to homes within the perimeter of a Cal Fire designated wildfire that weren’t actually destroyed.

“That was the gap that was missing,” Soller says. “Because if you have a total loss there is a protection for you. You can’t be nonrenewed. But if you have anything less than a total loss of your home, we saw home owners being dropped after these major fires.”

In far Northern California the policy includes areas around the Zogg, Slater and Devil Fires, and the Red Salmon and August Complex Fires. Customers can check the insurance department’s website to see if their zip code is included.

Some temporary protections were also created in Oregon after the 2020 fire season. Those also include the suspension of insurance cancellations and nonrenewals, and extended deadlines for policyholders to report claims, among other protections.

But according to a spokesman with the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services’ Division of Financial Regulation, a moratorium similar to California’s would have to be created during next year’s legislative session.

The California Insurance Department is hoping to encourage insurers to continue providing home insurance in the future if customers take home hardening steps to reduce their risk from wildfires.