California legislators introduce new bills after wildfires

A number of bills were introduced into the California legislature aimed at providing relief for victims and policyholders of last year’s devastating natural disasters.

-          SB 897. Adding some force behind California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones’s recent holiday request that insurers relax their strict requirement of detailed personal property inventories for policyholders whose homes were destroyed, SB 897 was introduced and would require insurers to pay out at minimum 80 percent of a policy’s personal property coverage limit without requiring itemization after a disaster has been declared. Furthermore SB 897 would apply retroactively if passed.

-          SB 894, another bill introduced in the California Senate, would allow policyholders to combine unused coverage (often other primary structure coverage, other structure coverage, contents coverage, and even additional living expenses coverage) from other parts of their policy toward rebuilding their home when they find themselves underinsured for their home. This bill would increase the number of times an insurer must renew a policy from one to two renewals. Under current law, insurers are only required to renew a policy one time and many fear that insurers will pull out of California communities prone to wildfires.

-          AB 1772 would extend a policyholder’s timeline to rebuild from 24 months to 36 months after a declared disaster.

-          AB 1797 would require an insurer to perform a replacement cost estimate each time a policy is renewed.

-          AB 1800 would clarify an insured’s right to the full replacement cost of their home. It adds language to the California Insurance Code that reads:

“The policy shall permit the insured to recover full replacement cost benefits regardless of whether the insured rebuilds at the current location, rebuilds at a new location, or purchases an already built home at a new location.”

-          AB 1875 would mandate residential insurers to offer extended replacement cost coverage of no less than 50% when issuing or renewing policies in an effort to combat the widespread number of people who are underinsured.

The California legislature is also considering a number of other proposals to assist policyholders and victims of the recent natural disasters throughout the state. These proposals include: requiring insurers to participate in a debris removal program following a declared disaster in order to expedite the cleanup process; increase the time that an policyholder has to sue an insurer following a declared disaster from 12 to 24 months; and providing policyholders with automatic additional replacement cost coverage equal to 50% of the policy limits after a declared disaster.


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