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California Wildfires and Mandatory Moratoriums on Cancellation of Residential Policies

September 29, 2021

As the past few month have shown, wildfires continue to rage across California, especially during the summer and fall wildfire seasons, with no reprieve in sight. Next year is not likely to be an exception.

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, while serving as state senator, authored Senate Bill 824 (2018). This consumer protection law requires a mandatory one-year moratorium on insurance companies cancelling or non-renewing residential insurance policies in certain areas within or adjacent to a fire perimeter after a declared state of emergency is issued by the Governor.

Commissioner Lara stated, “Losing your insurance should be the last thing on someone’s mind after surviving a devastating fire,” “[t]his law gives millions of Californians breathing room and hits the pause button on insurance non-renewals while people recover.”

Recently, Commissioner Lara issued notices to all admitted and non-admitted property and casualty insurance companies reminding insurers of California Insurance Code Section 675.1(b)(1), which prohibits insurers from non-renewal or cancellation of policies for residential property insurance in ZIP Codes within or adjacent to a fire perimeter for one year following a Governor of California’s declaration of a state of emergency. This prohibition applies to all policies of residential property insurance in effect at the time of each relevant declared emergency.

The most recent 2021 California wildfires impacted by such regulation, according to the California Department of Insurance, include:

  • July 16, 2021 Declaration (Lava & Beckwourth Complex Fires including Dotta and Sugar)
  • July 23, 2021 Declaration (Dixie, Fly and Tamarack Fires)
  • August 5, 2021 Declaration (Antelope and River Fires)
  • August 10, 2021 Declaration (McFarland, Monument and Dixie Fires)
  • August 17, 2021 Declaration (Caldor Fire in El Dorado County)
  • August 30, 2021 Declaration (Caldor Fire in Alpine, Amador and Placer Counties)
  • September 7, 2021 Declaration (Cache Fire)

Governor Gavin Newsom has proclaimed a state of emergency covering each of the aforementioned wildfires in California. California Insurance Commissioner Lara has advised that, in the meantime, insurers should refrain from issuing any notice of nonrenewal or cancellation, due to wildfire risk, for any policy of residential property insurance in effect that covers property in the vicinity of any known wildfire areas in California, particularly areas that may be related to the above-mentioned wildfires or fire complexes.

Being aware of these mandatory moratoriums can help insurers avoid any issues that may arise from nonrenewal or cancellation notices for insureds who reside in these areas.

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