Consumer Alert on Hurricane Hilary
Preparing for Hurricane Hilary
August 18, 2023 – Areas of California are currently mobilizing ahead of Hurricane Hilary. Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara is urging Californians to understand the extent to which their property insurance covers this type of damage.
Many people may not be aware that homeowners’ and commercial insurance policies typically exclude flood, mudslide, debris flow, and other similar disasters, however they do typically cover roof collapse and related ceiling damage. Also, all or most homeowners’ and commercial insurance policies will cover wind and storm damage.
The California FAIR Plan, currently does not cover any storm-related damage including snow damage unless a consumer has purchased a supplemental “difference in conditions” (DIC) policy from another insurance company.
Flood insurance is typically purchased separately from homeowners’ insurance. Flood insurance is available through the Federal Flood Insurance Program and must be in force for 30 days prior to a flood, so experts are suggesting consumers, including those in traditionally low-risk areas, consider purchasing flood coverage before warm weather begins to melt the snow.
Go to FloodSmart.gov for more information and to find an agent.
The Department of Insurance encourages consumers to review existing homeowners’ coverage to make sure they understand what is and is not covered when floods resulting from snowmelt, or roof collapse due to snow accumulation, occur.
Commissioner Lara also advises consumers to prepare for potential disaster by using their smart phone to perform a home inventory to create a record of their belongings and store scans of important documents that they can easily and remotely access after a disaster.
In response to current flooding:
- People with questions about what their homeowner’s insurance covers should review their policy and contact their agent and/or insurance company to obtain clarification. If the agent or the insurer fails to respond, they can contact the Department of Insurance at 800-927-4357 or through online chat or email at our website: insurance.ca.gov.
- Businesses affected can also contact the Department regarding their business interruption and commercial coverage policies if the agent or insurance company does not provide satisfactory resolution to their inquiry.
- Flood insurance is separate from homeowners and renter’s insurance, which generally does not cover flood, landslide, or mudflow.
- An important exception is coverage for debris flow following wildfires. If the facts show that the wildfire was the “efficient proximate cause” of the subsequent mudflow, mudslide, debris flow, landslide, or other similar events, then there may be coverage under the homeowners’ policy.
- Most residential and renters flood insurance is provided through the National Flood Insurance Program, which is administered by FEMA.
- We also have information on the Department of Insurance website. Here is our flood insurance fact sheet: http://www.insurance.ca.gov/01-consumers/140-catastrophes/FloodFacts.cfm
Coverage for mudslides caused by wildfires
Californians should review their current insurance policies in order to protect themselves and their assets from possible floods, mudslides, debris flows, and other disasters that threaten areas throughout the state.
Many Californians may not be aware that homeowners' and commercial insurance policies typically exclude flood, mudslide, debris flow, and other similar disasters—unless they are directly or indirectly caused by a recent wildfire or another peril covered by the applicable insurance policy.
Commissioner Lara sent a formal Notice to insurance companies reminding them of their duty to cover damage from any future mudslide or similar disaster that is caused by recent wildfires that weakened hillsides.
If you suffer damage in a mudslide and believe it is related to a recent contact your insurance company.
If a claim is denied, the insurance company must explain the specific reason for the denial – and the Department of Insurance can review it to see if the insurance company followed the law.
- While a standard homeowners’ insurance policy typically does not cover you in the event of a flood, your auto insurance policy may cover your vehicle if it is damaged in a flood if you have purchased comprehensive coverage.
- Comprehensive auto insurance coverage protects your vehicle in the event of flood damage.
- While only liability coverage is required by law, you should consider comprehensive coverage to protect your vehicle in case of storm damage.
- You should call your insurance company to report the damages and take pictures and keep records of all clean up and repair costs.
Fallen tree damage
Damage caused from fallen trees are generally covered under all standard homeowner policies. There may be exceptions. Please consult with your agent or your insurance company.
Damaged vehicles as a result of flood or fallen trees are generally covered under the “Comprehensive or Other than Collision” portion of the auto policy. Check your auto insurance declaration page to see if this optional coverage was purchased and in effect at the time of loss.
The department suggests evacuees contact their insurer to verify their ALE coverage provision and limits and learn about the requirements and impact of using the coverage. Coverage will depend on the cause of loss.
- Insurance companies cannot restrict additional living expenses if a home is rendered uninhabitable, even if the damage is not to the property itself. This addresses the problems after recent natural disasters when insurance companies denied benefits even though damaged power and water lines made homes uninhabitable. An insurance company may provide a reasonable alternative remedy that addresses the property condition, such as a portable generator in the case of downed power lines or a portable water source.
- In cases of a total loss related to a state of emergency, insurance companies must provide an advance payment of no less than four months of additional living expenses if the consumer requests it, with additional benefits due after the advance period upon proper documentation.
- Insurance companies must offer a 60-day grace period on payment of policy premiums for properties located within the affected area defined in the declared state of emergency.
- Also, under recent state laws residents who have a total loss can get 24 months plus possible 12-month extension for ALE.
If you are evacuating:
- Follow all evacuation orders from local authorities.
- If time allows, locate your insurance policy documents and upload them to the cloud using your mobile device.
- If time allows, make 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. Download a free home inventory guide from the department Web site.
After you evacuate:
- Homeowner and renter policies can help with evacuation and recovery expenses under additional living expense coverage, known as ALE. ALE coverage typically includes extra food and housing costs, furniture rental, relocation and storage, and transportation expenses. The department urges evacuees to contact their insurer to verify their ALE coverage provision and limits and learn about the requirements and impact of using the coverage. If financial losses due to a mandatory evacuation are significant, filing an ALE claim may be a good option for some policyholders.
- It is critical to keep all receipts and document the date, time and names of any insurance company employees you speak to regarding your coverage and details of the conversation.
- Policy provisions and deductibles vary by company, so residents should check with their insurer or agent as soon as possible to confirm coverage, limits, and any other limitations and documentation requirements.
- 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. Public adjusters cannot solicit business for seven calendar days after the disaster
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.