Commissioner sponsored bills addressing underinsurance for disaster survivors clear Committee
News: 2018 Press Release
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced that two bills he sponsored which are designed to help prevent homeowners from being underinsured when disaster strikes passed the Assembly Insurance Committee today with a unanimous, bipartisan vote. Assembly Bill 1797 (Levine) and Assembly Bill 1875 (Wood) will help homeowners avoid being underinsured—a terrible problem faced by many survivors of the 2017 fires.
"These bills are designed to help fire and mudslide survivors avoid the huge financial burden of being underinsured and unable to afford to rebuild by tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Commissioner Jones. "They offer California consumers more peace of mind knowing that if disaster strikes their insurance coverage should be sufficient to cover the costs of rebuilding and they will be able to move forward with certainty. I am pleased the Assembly Insurance Committee recognized the need for this legislation and am hopeful the full Legislature will agree and pass these important consumer protection bills."
Underinsurance is one of the most significant problems facing fire and mudslide survivors in the aftermath of the 2017 firestorms. According to a survey conducted by United Policyholders following the 2017 North Bay fires, 66 percent of survivors were underinsured on the dwelling portion of their claim and 47 percent were underinsured on the contents portion of their claim.
AB 1797 is aimed at making sure that homeowners are given an updated replacement cost estimate for their home. Current regulations require a complete and comprehensive estimate of the cost to replace a home when a replacement estimate is provided by the insurer, but state law does not mandate that insurers produce or regularly update a replacement cost calculation. AB 1797 would require insurers to either provide a policyholder with a full replacement cost estimate every other year or apply an inflation factor to the dwelling limit at each renewal and clearly offer the consumer the option to obtain a full replacement cost estimate.
AB 1875 addresses confusion surrounding extended replacement cost coverage (ERC). Almost all insurance companies offer ERC, which allows property owners to purchase limits above the replacement cost policy limits, which are typically based upon the insurance company's estimated cost of replacement. However, those ERC limits can vary dramatically from the low of a 20 percent option to higher options of 50, 75, or 100 percent. Many consumers are never provided these options by insurers nor are they told how the coverage options, if available, would impact their premiums. AB 1875 would require an insurer who does not provide at least 50 percent ERC to help direct the consumer to an insurer that does. This will give consumers reasonable options against underinsurance.
Led by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the California Department of Insurance is the consumer protection agency for the nation's largest insurance marketplace and safeguards all of the state’s consumers by fairly regulating the insurance industry. Under the Commissioner’s direction, the Department uses its authority to protect Californians from insurance rates that are excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory, oversee insurer solvency to pay claims, set standards for agents and broker licensing, perform market conduct reviews of insurance companies, resolve consumer complaints, and investigate and prosecute insurance fraud. Consumers are urged to call 1-800-927-4357 with any questions or contact us at www.insurance.ca.gov via webform or online chat. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.