California stops insurance companies from pulling policies in areas hit by wildfires

Thursday, December 5, 2019
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California on Thursday ordered insurance companies to stop dropping customers who live in areas affected by recent wildfires, invoking a new law for the first time to stabilize the state's volatile market.

The order from Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara will only last for one year. And it only covers people who live within the perimeter of one of 16 different wildfires that raged across the state in October. But the move marks an aggressive push by state regulators to give homeowners more time to find coverage as the growing threat of wildfires makes insuring their homes more expensive.

Lara said California's insurance market is "strong and thriving." But since 2015, insurance companies have declined to renew nearly 350,000 policies in areas at high risk for wildfires. That data does not include information on how many people were able to find coverage elsewhere or at what price.

Lara has the authority to do this under a law he authored while in the state Senate last year and later signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown. The law took effect in January, and this is the first time regulators have used it.

In addition to ordering the moratorium, Lara called on insurance companies to voluntarily stop dropping customers solely because of wildfire risk.

"I believe everyone in the state deserves this same breathing room," Lara said.

A spokeswoman for the American Property Casualty Insurance Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The California Department of Insurance has set up a website for residents to see if their ZIP Code is included in the moratorium, which includes the 16 wildfire disasters affected by Governor Newsom's emergency declarations: 46 Fire, Eagle, Easy, Getty, Glen Cove, Hill, Hillside, Kincade, Maria, Reche, Saddle Ridge, Sandalwood, Sky, Tick, Water, and Wolf fires.