Consumer Alert: Oak Fire evacuees could be eligible for evacuation-related expense reimbursements under their current insurance policy
News: 2022 Press Release
LOS ANGELES — Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara reminds residents in Mariposa County who have been ordered to evacuate due to the Oak Fire that they may have homeowners or renters insurance to help with evacuation and relocation costs under Additional Living Expenses coverage, known as ALE. ALE coverage typically includes food and housing costs, furniture rental, relocation and storage, and extra transportation expenses, among other costs. An estimated 6,000 Mariposa residents are under evacuation orders, representing approximately one-third of the county’s population.
Commissioner Lara also announced an impending action to protect insurance for residents living within the perimeter of the Oak Fire and surrounding areas, following Governor Newsom's emergency declaration on July 23. Under state law, once the fire's perimeter is determined by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) in consultation with the Governor's Office of Emergency Services, Commissioner Lara will issue a Bulletin identifying ZIP codes that will be subject to a one-year protection from homeowners insurance non-renewal or cancellation due to wildfire risk. Commissioner Lara has protected insurance for more than 4 million Californians since 2019.
“Wildfires are devastating both to homes and people’s lives, even if you don’t suffer property damage. I want evacuees to know additional living expenses coverage can be available to help with the stress and financial burden of mandatory evacuations,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “Once the Oak Fire is brought under control, my Department of Insurance will enforce state laws that protect insurance coverage for residents and help them recover.”
Many homeowners are unaware that they may have coverage under their homeowners and renters insurance policies to help them with evacuation and recovery expenses.
In 2020, Commissioner Lara sponsored a new law — SB 872 authored by Senator Bill Dodd — that requires insurance companies pay at least two weeks of ALE benefits to evacuees and provide an advance payment for no less than four months of ALE without an itemized inventory form, among other new consumer protections. This important consumer protection law removes barriers for disaster survivors to get critical insurance benefits and streamlines wildfire recovery processes for homeowners who suffer from a loss.
Here are some additional tips for consumers:
- Keep all receipts during your evacuation.
- 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.
- Document the date, time and names of any insurance company employees you speak to regarding your 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 (also available in Spanish), which includes information about claiming ALE benefits.
- 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.
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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
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.