Millions of residents in California depend on their homeowners insurance policies to cover repairs or rebuilds should their properties get damaged by wildfires. Unfortunately, in recent years, a significant portion of these homeowners have received letters from their insurance companies notifying them that their policies will not be renewed in the next term. If you find yourself in this stressful situation in the middle of fire season, take the following steps to make sure that your home is protected.
Learn Your Rights
Depending on where you live, your insurance company may not lawfully be allowed to refuse a home-policy renewal. For the past two years, the California Department of Insurance has instated a moratorium on non-renewals. This means that residents with homes in certain ZIP codes in California – codes that correspond with wildfire risk perimeters – are protected from insurance company non-renewals. Use the list of covered ZIP codes available on the department’s website to determine whether or not your insurer can lawfully refuse to renew your residential policy.
Call Your Homeowners Insurance Provider
If you are in a protected ZIP code or have another reason why the insurance company’s refusal to renew your home policy is unreasonable, contact your insurance company to request the reinstatement of the policy. There may be a misunderstanding or error on the insurance company’s part that they can remedy. There may also be steps that you can take to reinstate your policy, such as making your home less of a fire risk. If so, making the necessary changes and contacting your insurance agent should be enough to reinstate your fire damage coverage.
Contact the California Department of Insurance
If your insurance company refuses to renew your home policy during fire season even after you speak with a representative, turn to the California Department of Insurance for assistance. Submit an official Request for Assistance with a brief description of your problem and how you would like it to be resolved. The department will investigate the issue and may take corrective action against the insurance provider on your behalf, if applicable.
Purchase a New Policy
If you are not in one of the covered ZIP codes and the insurance company has a valid reason not to renew your policy, you may not be able to reinstate coverage. You may still be able to purchase fire damage insurance through a different source, however. California FAIR insurance, for example, provides coverage for fire-related risks as well as comprehensive homeowners insurance (as of December 2019).
Shop around for a different insurance company that is willing to take you on as a client even with wildfire risks in your area. This may be your only other option for fire damage coverage until the California Department of Insurance comes up with a long-term solution to non-renewals. Under Assembly Bill 2756, insurance companies are required to be more transparent regarding policies that do not cover losses related to wildfires in California. This can allow you to purchase a policy with the coverage that you need.
Speak to an Attorney
It can be difficult to get an insurance provider to treat you fairly as a policyholder, even if you have never missed a premium payment. If you are trying to pick up the pieces after a disastrous wildfire, such as the Dixie Fire, but are having trouble obtaining fair financial compensation from an insurance company, a California wildfire attorney from Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger can help you recover.
We will review your situation and may offer to take on your insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf in pursuit of the compensation that you deserve. We can discuss your case in more detail during a free initial consultation at our local law office in San Francisco or over the phone. Contact us today for assistance with a fire damage claim.