Commissioner Lara protects insurance coverage for 325,000 Northern California wildfire survivors
News: 2021 Press Release
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara today ordered insurance companies to preserve residential insurance coverage for more than 325,000 policyholders who have been affected by devastating Northern California wildfires across 22 counties. This Order protects those living within the perimeter or adjoining ZIP Code of a declared wildfire disaster regardless of whether they suffered a loss, including the Dixie, Caldor, River, Tamarack, Antelope, McFarland, Monument, Fly, and Cache fires.
“Climate change-fueled wildfires continue to devastate homeowners and communities. My moratorium orders help provide short-term relief as we address the root causes of these ever-intensifying natural disasters,” said Commissioner Lara. “This California law empowers my office to help give people the breathing room they desperately need as they recover. I will both continue to enforce this law to protect consumers and continue working to create long-term solutions.”
The Commissioner's ability to issue moratoriums is a result of a California law he authored in 2018 while serving as state senator in order to provide temporary relief from non-renewals to residents living within or adjacent to a declared wildfire disaster.
Today’s moratorium order follows Governor Gavin Newsom's six emergency declarations this summer and gives protection from insurance company-initiated non-renewals for one year for residential property insurance policies in ZIP codes within or adjacent to the fire perimeter. Today’s declared moratorium includes Governor Newsom’s July 23, August 5, August 10, August 17, August 30, and September 7 Declarations affecting parts of Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Glen, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Tehama, Trinity, Yolo, and Yuba counties. Consumers’ one year of protection from non-renewal starts on the date of the Governor’s emergency declaration that included the fire affecting them.
Today's order protects 325,000 policyholders and is in addition to 25,000 policyholders who were protected in the Commissioner’s moratorium order following the July 16 wildfire emergency in Lassen, Plumas, and Siskiyou counties.
Consumers can go to the California Department of Insurance website to see if their ZIP Code is included in the moratorium. Consumers should contact the Department of Insurance at 800-927-4357 or via chat or email at insurance.ca.gov if they believe their insurance company is in violation of this law, or have additional claims-related questions.
The Commissioner's action is part of a larger solution he is pursuing for consumers and wildfire survivors that includes working to increase insurance protections and market competition to help protect consumers. Commissioner Lara’s actions since taking office in 2019 include:
- Introduced rules that would allow consumers to obtain their home or business’s “wildfire risk score” from their insurance company and require that they receive credit for actions they have taken to make their properties safer.
- Created a partnership with CAL FIRE, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), and other state agencies to establish achievable, science-based home-hardening measures would allow more people to qualify for an insurance discount or other incentive.
- Sponsored new insurance protections signed into law by Governor Newsom — despite opposition from insurance companies — that will mean larger payouts for some claims, less red tape from insurance companies, and more help for people under evacuation orders.
- Ordered the FAIR Plan, the state's insurer of last resort, to offer a more comprehensive homeowners policy as an option, which a judge recently upheld.
“Protecting consumers is Job One,” added Commissioner Lara, who traveled to 36 counties before the pandemic and held virtual meetings since then to listen to the challenges that consumers have with insurance. “I am using every tool possible to protect consumers in the wake of climate change-intensified natural disasters and to stop bigger losses.”
Following Governor Newsom's state of emergency declarations, the Department of Insurance partners with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) and the Governor's Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), pursuant to existing statute, to identify wildfire perimeters for mandatory moratorium areas. The Department of Insurance will continue to collaborate with CAL FIRE and CalOES to identify additional wildfire perimeters for any fires where there is a declaration of a state of emergency.
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- The mandatory one-year moratorium announced today covers 325,000 residential policies in ZIP codes located within or adjacent to the Dixie, Caldor, River, Tamarack, Antelope, McFarland, Monument, Fly, and Cache fires under Senate Bill 824 (Lara, Chapter 616, Statutes of 2018), also known as the Wildfire Safety and Recovery Act.
- While existing law prevents non-renewals and cancellations for those who suffer a total loss in areas subject to a declared disaster, the new law established protection for those living within or adjacent to a declared wildfire emergency of whether they suffer a loss — recognizing for the first time in law the disruption that non-renewals cause in communities following wildfire disasters. Homeowners who suffered a total property loss have up to 24 months of protection from non-renewal or cancellation.
- Consumers can go to the Department of Insurance website to find the Commissioner’s Bulletin to see if their ZIP Code is included in this moratorium.
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.