California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara announced a new one-year moratorium protecting 325,000 homeowners and renters in 22 counties from having their fire insurance dropped on Monday.
The new mandatory one-year moratorium on non-renewals covers those with insurance in ZIP codes either within or next to the burn zones of several fires this year, including the Antelope, Cache, Caldor, Dixie, Fly, McFarland, Monument, River, and Tamarack fires. All together, the order protects parts of Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Glen, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Tehama, Trinity, Yolo, and Yuba counties in Northern California.
Commissioner Lara, who has issued cancellation moratoriums following large blazes for millions of policyholders since he took office in 2019, including a similar 3 county moratorium covering 25,000 homeowners in the Lava and Beckwourth Complex Fire areas last month, said on Monday that he needed to give those affected by wildfires “breathing room” to help recover from the wildfires. While state law temporarily bans insurance companies from dropping the policies of those who live or rent within or next to the zip codes of wildfire affected areas, not all fires are declared emergencies, with protections not often lasting very long when they are given by law. Lara said that this also helped him necessitate his decision on Monday, as well as how more insurance companies are choosing to drop those in fire affected areas following a rise in the number of wildfires in California in the last 10 years.
“My moratorium orders help provide short-term relief as we address the root causes of these ever-intensifying natural disasters,” said Lara in a statement on Monday. “This California law empowers my office to help give people the breathing room they desperately need as they recover. I will both continue to enforce this law to protect consumers and continue working to create long-term solutions.”
325,000 policyholders covered under latest moratorium
Lara, as well as other state workers and policymakers, have been trying to introduce more long-term standards to help policyholders be protected from being dropped by insurance companies, such as home hardening, cutting back on dried brush and vegetation, building retrofitting, specialized building materials to fireproof homes, creating fuel breaks, and other measures.
“We’ve seen a lot of policies be dropped because the insurance people come out, take one look at a property, and only envision everything being on fire,” explained Paul Wiley, a homeowner in Northern California who lost his home in a wildfire in 2018 and has helped advise homeowners the last three years on what to do to not be dropped, to the Globe on Tuesday. “Often times clearing all the dead , dry plants and creating a buffer between your home and trees is all you have to do, but with these companies, sometimes more is needed. It’s good that the state is starting to help people out, but a lot more is needed. People in areas at risk of a wildfire need to act to not get dropped, and for many, it’s choosing to shell out a lot for improvements or not have insurance. It’s all expensive.”
Commissioner Lara’s efforts to help fireproof more homes and add more to an insurance dropping moratorium have not only been due to a larger number of wildfires this year, but also political reasons. Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-Greenbae) recently announced that he would be challenging Lara in the Insurance Commissioner’s race next year. Among his arguments against Lara have been his “poor” efforts in getting enough Californians affordable fire insurance.
For those in the affected areas and counties who are unsure if they are covered by the moratorium, they can look up their ZIP code on the Insurance Commissioner’s website to make sure.
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