Fire Threat Compounded by Possibility of Insurance Companies Canceling Policies

The higher temperatures and increased threat of wildfires hitting San Diego County this weekend are a good reminder of another problem looming over the entire state.



a man flying through the air on a cloudy day: Travis Lowell takes a picture as smoke from wildfires rise, Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in Carlsbad, Calif. More wildfires broke out Wednesday in San Diego County — threatening homes in Carlsbad and forcing the evacuations of military housing and an elementary school at Camp Pendleton — as Southern California is in the grip of a heat wave. (AP Photo)


© AP

Travis Lowell takes a picture as smoke from wildfires rise, Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in Carlsbad, Calif. More wildfires broke out Wednesday in San Diego County — threatening homes in Carlsbad and forcing the evacuations of military housing and an elementary school at Camp Pendleton — as Southern California is in the grip of a heat wave. (AP Photo)


Insurance companies are dropping more and more policies for homes deemed too risky because of fires.

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It’s no longer a problem for just home owners in the back country.

“We are finding insurance companies are definitely looking at options or alternate outs and they’re using the fire lines,” said Brock Means, vice president of Means Financial and Insurance Services which connects homeowners with underwriters.

The massive fires burning through California in recent years have taken a huge toll on the insurance industry and have led many to take a more conservative approach when deciding which homes to insure.

California’s Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara considered the issue a crisis last year and took the unprecedented step of banning insurance companies from dropping people in certain fire ravaged ZIP codes, but the moratorium impacting more than 800,000 homeowners will end in December.

“I don’t think all 800,000 will be cancelled, but they could potentially” said Means.

The end of the temporary ban won’t mean much for homeowners in San Diego, as it was primarily used to protect homeowners in Northern California, according to Means.

Potential policy cancellations are still a very real threat for homeowners here, and complicating matters is the fact that insurance companies use different sets of criteria to determine which homes they’ll cover and which ones they won’t.

Industry experts believe fewer companies are relying on broad variables like ZIP codes and are taking into account things like newer roofs and community brush clearance, which bodes well for home owners who’ve taken extra steps to protect their property.

“Some insurance companies, they’re constantly changing underwriting guidelines. One year they’ll say ‘we don’t want to write in this area’ and the next year they’ll open it up,” said Means.

More and more homeowners are having to turn to California’s FAIR Plan for coverage as a last resort, which is a more basic policy covering fewer types of damages.

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