Fire insurance policies: an endangered species
SAN MATEO COUNTY, Calif. – With fire season now just peaking and plenty of weeks still to go, we have already racked up California’s worst ever fire season.
On a regular basis, homeowners in the urban wildland interface are getting multiple shocks from massive insurance increases, less coverage and outright cancellations.
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen the market for home insurance in the state of California,: said multi-line insurance broker David Shaffer. If you must pay far more, do you get any better coverage?”
The answer is no.
“The higher premiums are actually giving you inferior coverage and you should even be thankful that you can get your house insured,” said Shaffer.
“We are getting reports of doubling, tripling, quadrupling and, in recent weeks, I’ve been hearing six-figure quotes for high end, high value homes,” said consumer advocate Amy Bach of United Policyholders.
The best alternative is a basic fire policy from the California State FAIR Plan. It covers fires and little else, but is better than nothing.
“But, the FAIR Plan policy does not cover personal liability. It doesn’t cover water damage if a pipe breaks in your house and causes water damage. It doesn’t cover theft,” said Shaffer.
That hard to find coverage must be purchased at extra expense from other insurers.
Freccia’s homeowners insurance is now with the FAIR plan, plus additional coverage for essential things this insurer of last resort will not cover. “That comes out to $11,000, $12,000 annually,” said Freccia. That’s more than double and not nearly enough money to replace the home if it burns to the ground.
“The problem is there’s no private market for people right now,” said Ms. Bach.
Insurers say it’s all because between 2011 and 2016, they paid out about $4 billion a year for wildfire claims nationally. In 2017 and 2018, Californian’s alone submitted claims for more than $20 billion.