California Wildfire Insurance: Everything You Need to Know

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California Wildfire Insurance: Everything You Need to Know

Over the past five years, California has experienced an average of over 3,600 fires and over 293,000 acres burned annually. It’s hard to imagine your home and family being affected by such a tragedy, but the unthinkable can happen. That’s why it’s more important than ever to prepare for the unexpected. To safeguard your assets, read on for everything you need to know about California wildfire insurance.

You can protect your home from wildfire and save money on your wildfire insurance policy when you install a Frontline Wildfire Defense exterior sprinkler system. For more information, contact us today for a free consultation.

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Does Homeowners Insurance Cover California Wildfires?

Many people ask if homeowners insurance covers wildfires. The answer is yes, but not always, particularly for California residents in fire-prone areas. With the disappearance of a regular wildfire season, year-round risks are the new norm. As a result, many California residents are finding it increasingly difficult to find homeowners insurance policies that include wildfire coverage. In the face of increasing risk, more and more insurance companies are rejecting renewals for these policies, canceling policies, or omitting this type of coverage from written policies.

What Does California Wildfire Insurance Cover?

If you are facing a non-renewal notice or are struggling to find a homeowner’s insurance policy that includes wildfire coverage, a dedicated wildfire insurance policy can offer you peace of mind. While you should check the particulars of your specific policy, California wildfire insurance can include the following coverage options:

  • Dwelling Coverage covers the cost of repairing or rebuilding a home due to damage caused by wildfire.
  • Other Structures Coverage covers the cost of repairing or rebuilding structures attached to your home, such as a detached garage, carport, or workshop.
  • Landscape Coverage covers damage to the landscape surrounding your property.
  • Personal Property Coverage covers the cost of replacing your personal belongings, including furniture and appliances.
  • Loss of Use Coverage, also known as Additional Living Expense Coverage, offers help with additional expenses that you may incur during an evacuation period or during your home’s rebuilding process.
  • Liability Coverage covers medical expenses and property damage for others who have been harmed on your property.

The coverage options above are by no means inclusive. If you find that your homeowners insurance policy offers little or no coverage for the categories above, consider investing in a dedicated wildfire insurance policy.

Primary, Surplus, and California Fair Plan Insurance

Here’s what you need to know when exploring your wildfire insurance coverage options as a California resident:

Primary Insurers

Your primary insurer is the first to respond to an incident or insurance claim, even if you have other policies that cover the same risk. Some primary insurance providers who offer wildfire coverage include Chubb, AIG, and PURE. In addition to insurance coverage, these providers may offer exclusive services to policyholders in some areas such as assessing your home’s wildfire preparedness, dispatching firefighting professionals to your property, and more.

Surplus Insurers

When a standard insurance carrier chooses not to write a policy, surplus insurers are your second line of defense. These are also known as standalone policies. Surplus insurance may be the only option for people who live in high-risk areas where primary insurers may not write policies. Lloyd’s of London is one example of a surplus insurer for wildfire coverage.

California FAIR Plan

The California FAIR Plan should only be considered when all of your options for wildfire insurance are exhausted. While these policies can be less expensive than alternatives, they often include very limited coverage options. This coverage was created by the state of California in response to the challenges faced by residents living in high-risk areas. Before applying, you must do your due diligence by exploring all your coverage options for both primary and surplus insurers. If the California FAIR Plan is your only option in your area, ask your provider if any add-on coverage options are available to help ensure more robust protection for your assets.

What if Your Insurance is Canceled or Non-Renewed?

It is becoming increasingly common for insurance companies to either cancel policies or deny renewals for California residents. This can be a frightening event, but take comfort in the fact that you always have a right to wildfire insurance, no matter where you live in California. Here’s what you need to know regarding cancellations and non-renewals for wildfire insurance coverage:

Dropped Home Insurance Policies

Canceled or dropped home insurance policies occur when your insurer decides to write off a policy, leaving you without coverage. This practice is becoming increasingly common for residents in high-risk areas. In response, California has implemented a temporary ban on insurance companies dropping customers in areas affected by recent wildfires. This means that your insurer has a legal obligation to maintain your coverage. Insurers can’t drop coverage for a policy that has been in effect for at least 60 days.

Note that the temporary ban on dropped policies ends on December 5, 2020.

Non-Renewals

A non-renewal occurs when an insurance company decides that it will not renew your policy after its expiration date. Typically, an insurance policy term ranges from six months to one year. Wildfires, however, are now a year-round risk in California, and the practice of non-renewals is becoming increasingly common. As your existing policy term reaches its end, we highly recommend keeping a list of other potential insurance providers on hand. If you are caught off-guard by a non-renewal, having this list of potential providers could help to prevent gaps in coverage that might otherwise leave your assets exposed to risk.

What Does California Wildfire Insurance Cost?

If you’re considering a wildfire insurance policy, it’s important to examine your options to get the best possible rate. On average, policy deductibles can range anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000—though policyholders in high-risk areas could face deductibles as high as $5,000 or more. Annual premium rates are continuing to rise and can vary greatly depending on several factors, including:

  • Your location and wildfire risk
  • The value of your home and property
  • Coverage options selected
  • Prior claim history
  • Whether you’ve taken precautions such as maintaining defensible space or installing an exterior fire sprinkler system

Rate Increases Since 2017-18 Fires

The cost of fire insurance has increased at an alarming rate for California residents since the 2017 and 2018 fires. According to ABC 10, some homeowners rates have increased by as much as 300% in 2019. The good news is that there some ways you can reduce your rate.

How to Get the Best Rate

Research is critical when seeking the best possible rate for your wildfire policy. Explore your options to find policies with all the coverage options you require and compare rates from available providers in your area.

Some insurance providers may also provide discounts or premium credits for action on your part, like maintaining defensible space around your property or living in a Firewise Community. Another great money-saving tip is installing an exterior sprinkler system, like the Frontline Wildfire Defense System. In many cases, insurance companies offer lower rates for homeowners who have taken this extra preventative measure.

Protect Your Home & Save with the Frontline Wildfire Defense System

Now that you know the basics of California wildfire insurance, it’s time to get covered and protect your home. Depending on your insurer, you can expect a discount of 5-25% on your insurance premium when you install a Frontline Wildfire Defense exterior sprinkler system. Additional savings may also available when you choose coverage with one of our preferred insurance partners, which include PURE and Chubb. For those insured through our preferred partners, you may even be able to receive a discount on the installation of the Frontline system.

The Frontline Wildfire Defense exterior sprinkler system can protect your home with:

  • Remote activation for 24/7 protection from anywhere
  • Built-in battery backup and satellite communication
  • Environmentally friendly, biodegradable Class A foam
  • Municipal, well, pool and emergency water tank supply options
  • Wildfire tracking and remote system activation using the Frontline app

For more information on how Frontline Wildfire Defense can help safeguard your home or for information on wildfire insurance partners, contact us today for a free consultation.

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