Wildfire evacuees may be eligible for cost reimbursement from their insurance company
News: 2020 Press Release
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Thousands of residents across California who have been ordered to evacuate due to wildfires may have homeowners’ or renters’ insurance coverage to help with evacuation and relocation costs, even if their homes are not damaged or destroyed.
“With more than 367 wildfires sweeping the state, I want evacuees to know additional living expense coverage can be available to help ease the financial burden of mandatory evacuations,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “Residents who have been evacuated should contact their insurance agent or the Department of Insurance to find out what their renter’s or homeowners’ policy covers and other resources that may be available to them while the mandatory evacuation orders are in place.”
Many homeowners are unaware that they may have coverage under their homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies to help them with evacuation and recovery expenses. Additional living expense coverage, known as ALE, typically includes food and housing costs, furniture rental, relocation and storage, and extra transportation expenses.
Insurance Commissioner Lara urges evacuees to contact their insurance company to verify their ALE coverage provision and limits and learn about requirements to use the coverage. It is critical to keep all receipts and document the date, time, and names of any insurance company employees you speak to regarding your coverage and details of the conversation.
Here are some additional tips for consumers:
- Policy provisions, including deductibles, vary by company, and residents should check with their insurance company or agent as soon as possible to confirm coverage, limits, and any other limitations and documentation requirements. Most renter’s policies also typically include ALE coverage.
- Consumers should make sure any insurance agent or public adjuster offering their services has a valid license by checking online with the Department of Insurance.
- Download the Department’s Top 10 Tips for Wildfire Claimants.
- Public adjusters cannot solicit business for seven calendar days after the disaster.
- Don't forget copies of insurance policies, important papers, and a photo or video inventory of your possessions. An inventory can be completed quickly and easily on your smart phone and safely stored in the Cloud.
Commissioner Lara continues to look at all options to assist wildfire survivors and evacuees, including his sponsorship this year of Senate Bill 872 authored by Senator Bill Dodd, which expands the scope of ALE coverage in homeowners’ insurance policies after a declared wildfire emergency, clarifies policyholder rights if the policyholder decides to relocate rather than rebuild the destroyed home, and adopts other meaningful consumer protections to help ease the burden for homeowners and renters as they rebuild their homes and lives after a major catastrophic event.
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- Additional resources and information for consumers on wildfires are available from the California Department of Insurance. Download a free home inventory guide from the department website, or receive a hardcopy by calling the California Department of Insurance Consumer Hotline at 800-927-HELP (4357).
- If you have any questions or need assistance, the California Department of Insurance is here to help. Please call: 1-800-927-4357 or visit www.insurance.ca.gov.
- Additional contact information:
- California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES): (916) 657-9494 or www.caloes.ca.gov
- California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE): www.fire.ca.gov
- Federal Emergency Management Agency: 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or www.fema.gov
- Contractors State License Board: 1-800-321-CSLB (2752) or www.cslb.ca.gov
- National Insurance Crime Bureau 1-888-815-9064 or www.nicb.org
The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California. Insurers collect $371 billion in premiums annually in California. Since 2011 the California Department of Insurance received more than 1,000,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $469 million in claims and premiums. Please visit the Department of Insurance website at www.insurance.ca.gov. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.