Some insurance companies requiring fire inspections in California

Some insurance companies, at least in California, are finally realizing that they should not be offering fire insurance to homeowners that do not assume personal responsibility for making their homes fire safe. Allstate is so freaked out by the claims they have had to pay for homes damaged in wildfires that they stopped selling new homeowner policies in California in 2007.

On September 6, 2008, Wildfire Today quoted a story from Capital Press:

Companies also impose tougher policy conditions. Some have recently started requiring property owners to increase clearances to as much as 1,500 feet of vegetation from around homes in some fire zones. That’s 15-times more clearance than what’s currently required by California law. Indeed, Allstate says that 1-in-5 houses in high-risk areas it has inspected had hazardous brush conditions.

However, California legislation that became effective on January 1, 2009, stipulates that an insurance company can only require more than a 100-foot of clearance if the local fire agency agrees that it is necessary.

Here is an excerpt from a story in the Sacramento Bee:

Since the first of the year, Cal Fire officials have been flooded with calls from panicky mountain and foothills residents seeking fire inspections so they can keep their homeowner’s insurance.

Allen Bengtson said he recently became No. 389 on the Amador-El Dorado Unit’s inspection list after receiving a letter from Allstate.

An inspector under contract to Allstate visited when no one was home and reported concerns about spacing of trees on the rural property between Lotus and Rescue. Bengtson was told he would have to pass an inspection by the local fire agency to renew his coverage.

“The good part is, we’re going out and meeting with really motivated landowners,” said Chris Anthony, a Cal Fire battalion chief in charge of fire prevention.

But deadlines for insurance-related inspections interfere with Cal Fire’s efforts to target high fire-hazard areas and inspect several properties at one time, Anthony said.

Cal Fire’s local resources also are likely to be stretched during the summer months as firefighters are sent to wildland fires throughout the state.

Anthony said about 98 percent of the inspection requests the Amador-El Dorado Unit has received are from Allstate customers.

Insurance companies are a necessary part of the equation in convincing homeowners to make their homes fire safe, and it is great that some of them are finally stepping up to the plate, but it is important that they be reasonable in their damands.