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California Protects Insurance Coverage for 325,000 Northern California Wildfire Survivors

Press release from the California Department of Insurance:

burning home Hopkins Fire
Firefighters fighting the Hopkins Fire while flames rise from a building. [Photo by Matt LaFever]

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 23August 5August 10August 17August 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 23 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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