Wildfire victims who lose their home and possessions will be able to recoup money for their expenses faster, thanks to legislation that makes property insurance benefits easier to collect.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 872 into law Thursday, providing a suite of insurance protections and streamlined claims processing to better respond to the recovery challenges residents face right after a disaster.
The law won’t take effect until next year. It got Newsom’s endorsement as Sonoma and Napa counties and numerous California communities confront property losses during two months of widespread fires that have burned 4 million acres statewide this year.
Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, who co-authored the legislation, viewed it as part of the growing movement to address home insurance hurdles for disaster survivors after consecutive years of destructive wildfires in the North Bay, he said.
“None of these bills are a silver bullet, but all of them put together in a patchwork quilt of legislation are moving the needle and, I think, meeting the moment to really help consumers,” Dodd said.
The law requires insurance companies to pay up to four months of living expenses in advance, opposed to just one month now.
However, victims of this year’s blazes will go without that and other new regulations, including a provision that requires insurers to submit an advance payment of at least 25% for the value of lost possessions without having to file an inventory form.
The California Department of Insurance has received numerous complaints from residents who have struggled identifying every item that was lost in a fire, Commissioner Ricardo Lara said Friday in a prepared statement.
Lara urged insurance companies to help wildfire survivors and provide up to 100% of their personal property coverage limits without a detailed, itemized form, which has been a common request.