Commissioner Lara orders protections for more than 15,000 Californians following Smith River and Happy Camp Complex fires
News: 2023 Press Release
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Helping consumers continue their recovery from wildfires, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara today ordered insurance companies to preserve residential insurance coverage for more than 15,000 policyholders affected by fires in Del Norte County and Siskiyou County after Governor Gavin Newsom issued emergency declarations on August 29, 2023. The Commissioner’s Bulletin shields those living within the perimeters or adjoining ZIP Codes of the Smith River Complex fire and the Happy Camp Complex fire from insurance non-renewal or cancellation for one year from the date of the Governor’s August 29 emergency declaration regardless of whether they suffered a loss.
“Consumers affected by these recent wildfires need to have peace of mind that they have time to assess, rebuild, and recover, and not have the added pressure of worrying about their insurance. My number one priority is to protect California consumers,” said Commissioner Lara. “My moratorium Order is just one of the many ways that I am taking action to provide relief to homeowners while I continue to work with stakeholders and climate experts to address the root causes of these ever-intensifying natural disasters in order to prevent even greater losses.”
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 insurance non-renewals and cancellations to residents living within or adjacent to a gubernatorial-declared wildfire disaster.
Since 2019, Commissioner Lara’s actions have protected nearly 4 million homeowners. Today’s order protects over 15,000 policyholders for one year, effective August 29, 2023. Consumers who were non-renewed prior to the emergency declaration date and are unable to obtain insurance or are dissatisfied with their current coverage should contact the California Department of Insurance for assistance in shopping for insurance.
Consumers can go to the 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.
Commissioner Lara’s actions since taking office in 2019 include:
- Announced “Safer from Wildfires,” a new insurance framework that incorporates wildfire safety measures to help save lives while making homes and businesses more resilient. Safer from Wildfires was created by a first-ever partnership between the Department of Insurance and the emergency and preparedness agencies in Governor Newsom’s Administration, including CAL FIRE, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, and the California Public Utilities Commission.
- Finalized new regulations to incorporate Safer from Wildfires in insurance pricing, driving down costs for consumers who have taken actions to protect their communities while increasing transparency about their home’s or business’s “wildfire risk score.”
- 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 upheld, as well as expanding residential and commercial coverage limits for the first time in 25 years to keep pace with increased costs.
Following Governor Newsom’s state of emergency declarations, the Department of Insurance partners with CAL FIRE and 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 gubernatorial declaration of a state of emergency.
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- On August 29, 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom proclaimed two separate state of emergencies, one state of emergency covering Del Norte County due to the Smith River Complex fire and another state of emergency covering Siskiyou County due to the Happy Camp Complex fire.
- While existing law prevents non-renewals and cancellations for those who suffer a total loss in areas subject to a declared disaster, the 2018 law established protection for those living within or adjacent to a declared wildfire emergency whether they suffer a loss or not — 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.
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.