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Dec. 5, 2019, 6:16 p.m. EST

California bans insurers from dropping policies in wildfire zones

Insurers have declined to renew thousands of policies; temporary moratorium applies to 800,000 homes

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By Nicole Friedman


Associated Press
A firefighter passes a burning home as the Kincade Fire rages in Healdsburg, Calif., on Oct 27.

California regulators temporarily banned insurers from refusing to renew home-insurance policies in certain wildfire-prone parts of the state in an effort to halt an insurance-availability crisis.

Homeowners and businesses in some parts of California are struggling to find insurance coverage and are paying large premiums when they do find it.

Following devastating wildfire losses in 2017 and 2018, insurers have rapidly retreated from insuring wildfire-prone properties. Insurers have declined to renew tens of thousands of home-insurance policies in areas with high wildfire risk in the past two years, including many properties that didn’t file claims.

“I’m hearing the same story again and again. People have been dropped by their insurance companies after decades of premium payment and loyalty,” California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said at a press conference Thursday. “This needs to stop.”

The state said its moratorium applies to about 800,000 homes, and more areas are expected to be added. The new law applies to 16 wildfires that occurred in 2019, the state said.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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