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Commissioner Lara puts insurance companies “on notice” to protect insurance coverage for communities with wildfire emergency declarations

News: 2021 Press Release

For Release: September 1, 2021
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Commissioner Lara puts insurance companies “on notice” to protect insurance coverage for communities with wildfire emergency declarations
Commissioner’s Notices apply to residents living in or near Governor-declared wildfire emergencies in counties across Northern California

LOS ANGELES — Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara announced today that he has issued notices to insurance companies alerting them to cease non-renewals and cancellations of insurance coverage for communities with wildfire emergencies — or risk being in violation of California law. His notices cover homeowners' and renters' insurance policyholders living near major wildfires included in emergency declarations by Governor Newsom.

Last year, Commissioner Lara protected more than 2.4 million policyholders from non-renewal or cancellations for one year following the largest wildfires in the state's history. His actions covered those living within the perimeter of a declared wildfire disaster or adjoining ZIP codes under a law he authored in 2018.

These notices represent the preliminary step in protecting policyholders from non-renewal or cancellation following wildfire emergencies. Once each fire perimeter is identified, Commissioner Lara will issue a Bulletin identifying ZIP codes that will be subject to the one-year moratorium. Commissioner Lara has already issued a Bulletin that protects more than 25,000 policyholders in Lassen, Plumas, and Siskiyou counties covered under Governor Newsom’s July 16 emergency declaration for the Lava Fire and the Beckwourth Complex Fire.

“Governor Newsom's emergency actions during this wildfire season provide additional assistance for survivors along with triggering insurance protections under a law passed in 2018 to allow people to keep their insurance as they recover,” said Insurance Commissioner Lara, who authored SB 824 when he served in the State Senate. “I will continue to work with the Governor's Administration to give people much-needed breathing room as they get back on their feet.”

The Department of Insurance is collaborating with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) and the Governor's Office of Emergency Services to identify additional wildfire perimeters for any fires where there is a declaration of a state of emergency, including Governor Newsom's July 23, August 5, August 10, August 17, and August 30 Declarations affecting parts of Alpine, Butte, El Dorado, Lassen, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, and Trinity counties.

Consumers can go to the California Department of Insurance's website to see if their ZIP code is included in the current moratorium and to read his notices to insurance companies. The Department will update this web page as additional ZIP codes are protected in the future. Previous notifications on moratoriums can be found here.

The Commissioner's ability to issue moratoriums is a result of a California law he authored in 2018 while serving as state senator, after learning of insurance companies' practices from wildfire survivors across the state. The law is intended to provide temporary relief from non-renewals due to wildfire risk to residents living within or adjacent to a declared wildfire disaster, even if they suffered no property damage. Those who suffered a total loss have additional protection from non-renewal under existing state law.

The measure is part of a larger solution for homeowners and wildfire survivors that includes working to increase insurance protections and increasing market competition to help protect consumers.

This is the third consecutive year that Commissioner Lara has implemented the moratorium law.

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Media notes:

  • Insurance Commissioner Lara has sent notices to all residential insurance companies alerting them he will issue Bulletins under Section 675.1(b)(2) of Insurance Code to protect wildfire survivors. The notices state: “to avoid the need to reverse any adverse policy action after the Section 675.1(b)(2) Bulletin is issued, insurers should refrain from issuing any notice of non-renewal or cancellation, due to wildfire risk, for any policy of residential property insurance in effect … that covers property in any known active wildfire areas in the state.”
  • Senate Bill 824 (Lara, Chapter 616, Statutes of 2018), also known as the Wildfire Safety and Recovery Act, created the new protection. While existing law prevents non-renewals and cancellations for those who suffer a total loss, the new law established protection for those living within or adjacent to a declared wildfire emergency who did not suffer a total loss—recognizing for the first time in law the disruption that non-renewals cause in communities following wildfire disasters.
  • Consumers can go to the Department's website to see the full list of protected ZIP codes. The Department will update this web page as more areas are protected.

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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