New Insurance Rules Protect Fire Victims

Smoke lingers on a burned property on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, just one day after the Woolsey Fire swept through Malibu.

A slate of new protections for California fire victims were signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom after the passage of Senate Bill 872 in 2020, meant to ease the financial strain most fire victims experience in the days, weeks and months following a wildfire.

Information provided by the office of California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara outlines the major protections included in the bill:

  • Residents under mandatory evacuation—even those whose homes are not damaged—will receive additional living expenses for at least two weeks as evacuations continue.
  • Insurance companies may no longer deduct land values from claims should survivors choose to relocate rather than rebuild.
  • Insurance companies may not restrict additional living expenses if homes are rendered unlivable not due to damage but due to outside problems such as power or water loss, although insurance companies may provide a portable generator or water source as a reasonable remedy.
  • Insurance companies must provide an advance payment of no less than four months of additional living expenses, upon request, in cases of a total loss related to a state of emergency.
  • Insurance companies may not require wildfire survivors to itemize each loss; instead, survivors can include groupings of categories “such as clothing, shoes, books, food items and DVDs.”
  • Insurance companies must offer a 60-day grace period on payment of premiums for properties located within areas where states of emergency have been declared.