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Commissioner-supported bill to increase protections for wildfire survivors passes Legislature

News: 2018 Press Release

For Release: August 29, 2018
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Commissioner-supported bill to increase protections for wildfire survivors passes Legislature
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced today that a bill he supported to strengthen consumer protections for wildfire survivors has passed the Legislature and is headed to California Governor Jerry Brown. Senate Bill 824, authored by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), provides valuable information to the California Department of Insurance (CDI) related to fire risk information on the residential property policies issued by insurers and prohibits an insurer from canceling or refusing to renew a policy based solely on the fact that the insured structure is located in the area of a declared state of emergency.

"As extreme wildfire risk grows, data from insurers detailing and documenting this risk has not kept pace," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "Requiring insurers to provide wildfire risk data will give the Department of Insurance an important additional tool to help protect the 3.6 million Californians living in the Wildland Urban Interface. This data should help Californians living in high-risk areas access insurance products protecting their homes and communities."

Wildfires are increasing in frequency and severity and currently CDI lacks the data to fully understand the impact of wildfire risk on both the availability and affordability of homeowner's insurance in order to help homeowners. SB 824 will allow CDI to gain information to better help homeowners and ensure a vibrant and robust insurer marketplace relating to fire risk.

"'Will I still have insurance?' is not a question homeowners should have to face immediately after a wildfire disaster," said Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens). "If this bill becomes law, millions of Californians living in the wildland urban interface will have greater security. Insurers will not be able to hide behind increased fire risk when they cancel or non-renew insurance within a year of a catastrophic fire, and SB 824 will help us protect communities."

SB 824 will lead to the collection of important data that will provide a more comprehensive picture of the changes in our marketplace. The availability of this data will allow insurers to utilize aggregated information that should help them write more policies in the Wildland Urban Interface without overextending their risk profile.

Many homeowners in high risk counties are being non-renewed by their insurer. Many insurers are not writing insurance for some homes they determine to be at high risk of wildfire. Some homeowners chose to not renew their policies because of steep premium increases and/or lower coverage reasons. SB 824 also prohibits insurance companies from cancelling or non-renewing any homeowner policies within and immediately surrounding a declared emergency area for one year – extending current protections for those who experience total loss to add consumers whose homes survive the blaze.   

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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 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.

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