California Lawmakers Prepare for Disasters Following the Wildfires

January 23, 2018

The 2017 California wildfire season is the most destructive one on record according to the Sacramento Bee. A total of 9,054 fires burned across the state, including 20 of the most destructive fires in the state’s history. The wildfires that ripped through Northern California in October 2017 destroyed at least 8,900 structures and resulted in 44 deaths, 192 injuries, and damages over $9.4 billion.

Location of the California wildfires in October 2017

Location of the California wildfires in December 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In response to the widespread emergencies, California lawmakers are taking steps to protect Californians from the consequences and suffering that follows a wildfire. Legislators have drafted a set of bills to propose a greater wildfire insurance protection. If passed, these new laws would add to the already existing protections in the state law for those who have experienced natural disasters, including substantial relief from property taxes.

Some of the biggest proposed changes include:

  • SB 894 – Would allow residents to re-purpose unused portions of their coverage toward rebuilding their home. Residents can combine coverage from their primary homes and other buildings they may have insured to rebuild their main residence. In addition, it would prevent insurance companies from dropping coverage for at least two years after a disaster.
  • SB 897 – Would require insurance companies to cover things such as Airbnb or RV rentals as an additional living expense while one’s home is being rebuilt since hotels and long-term rentals may not be available. In addition, it would also allow the policyholders the option to receive no less than 80% of their contents claim coverage even if residents don’t have a full list of what was lost.
  • AB 1797 – Would require an insurer to provide updated estimates of the full replacement costs of their homes at the time of annual policy renewal.
  • AB 1800 and AB 1799 – Would ensure that residents can collect the full replacement cost of their home even if they choose to rebuild at another location. In addition it would require insurers to provide complete policy documents, instead of just summaries, to residents upon request.
  • AB 1875 – Would require insurance companies to make available policies covering no less than 150% of their home replacement costs.
  • SB 824 –¬†Would make it harder for insurance companies to cancel or reduce coverage in areas at risk for fires by making the state insurance commissioner sign off on such decisions.
  • AB 1722 – Would extend the time people have to rebuild from two years to three years, and still allow them to receive the full replacement cost from their insurance company.

Sources: LA Times, CBS SF Bay Area