After years of drought and extreme wildfires, many Placer County residents are reporting steep increases in their homeowner insurance premiums or even nonrenewals. While local governments don’t have any jurisdiction or control over insurance rates, we can continue working with our residents facing these issues to better advocate for solutions at the state and federal levels.
Within our authority, Placer County continues to press for solutions; coordinating closely with state legislators on California Senate Bill 824 (passed in 2018) to offer additional protections for policyholders, directly appealing to the Department of Insurance for help and launching an insurance nonrenewals survey in July 2019 to get the best data possible on the impacts in Placer to inform more advocacy. (See: https://www.placer.ca.gov/DocumentCenter/View/39678/2019-Fire-Insurance-Survey-Results-with-Location-Tables?bidId=)
Meanwhile, the best thing we can do to improve the affordability and availability of insurance is to work together to reduce fire risk in our communities.
In response to our Board of Supervisors’ letter July 9 appealing to the Department of Insurance to help Placer residents facing insurance nonrenewals, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara met with county leaders Aug. 7, 2019, to discuss solutions. At the meeting, Commissioner Lara announced that DOI will dispatch ‘strike teams’ to areas like Placer that are hit hard by nonrenewals to help connect affected residents with resources and coordinate with local governments in continuing to assess and respond to insurance issues. Placer County hosted the commissioner for a fire insurance town hall in Auburn on August 28.
What to do if you receive a nonrenewal notice
• Know your rights. Under state law, new policy and renewal decisions by insurance companies must be objectively related to loss exposure and can’t be unfairly discriminatory. They must also provide a minimum of 45 days notice of a nonrenewal and a specific reason.
• If you believe your nonrenewal or rate increase is unfair, you are strongly encouraged to file a complaint with the California Department of Insurance.
• The Department of Insurance also offers a hotline to respond to consumer questions and investigate nonrenewals for compliance with the law. You can reach the hotline at 800-927-4357.
• Review the Department of Insurance’s ‘Top Ten Tips for Finding Residential Insurance’.
• The United Policyholders nonprofit group also offers resources that could help with securing a new policy. (United Policyholders is not affiliated with or endorsed by Placer County.)
Top Ten Tips for Finding Residential Insurance from the California Department of Insurance:
There has been an increase in nonrenewals and understand that residential insurance is getting harder to find in any area that insurers identify as having a higher than average risk of wildfire. While the Department of Insurance doesn’t have the legal authority to tell insurers what level of risk they must write or where they must write insurance, we can monitor that they are consistent in their decisions and that their decisions are based on considerations of risk, not other biases.
If you get a nonrenewal notice, contact your insurer and ask if there are any specific actions you could take to mitigate your risk and retain your coverage.
If you think your nonrenewal was unfair, you may file a complaint with us.
Don’t let these actions delay starting your search for a new insurer. Make sure you have done everything you can do at your property to mitigate fire risk then start shopping for coverage.
In addition to contacting local agents or brokers in the vicinity of your home, you may wish to use our Residential Insurance Company Contact List that provides toll free numbers for over 50 insurers that are licensed to sell homeowners insurance. You can contact each of them to find the closest agent or broker or, in some cases, get a quote from them directly. If you need help from an agent that speaks a specific language, you can use our Agent Language Locator to find one near you.
You can also utilize our Premium Comparison Tool and Coverage Comparison Tool to compare premiums and coverages.
Some agents may exclusively represent only one company. You should also contact independent agents or brokers who represent multiple insurers to seek coverage. Verify which insurers each agent you contact represents in order to conduct a thorough search of all insurers.
Understand that the California FAIR Plan is available to every homeowner as a last option for coverage. The maximum limit written by the FAIR Plan on a residential property for all coverages combined is $1,500,000. Because the coverage provided by a FAIR Plan policy is very limited, it is recommended that you supplement the FAIR Plan policy with a Difference in Conditions policy.
If none of these options work for you, you may try obtaining coverage in the “surplus lines” market. Ask your agent or broker if they are able to obtain coverage with a surplus lines insurer or obtain coverage through a surplus lines broker (note, surplus lines insurers are not backed by the California Insurance Guarantee Association).
If you prefer to speak live with our staff, you are always welcome to call the Department of Insurance toll free at 1-800-927-4357 or check out our website at www.insurance.ca.gov