Because of all the changes in the home insurance market, my articles for the past year have focused on fire safety, fire insurance and changes in the insurance industry.
People ask me questions like “when is this going to change?”, “will we ever be able to get normal home insurance again?”, “should I sell my house?” These questions are impossible to answer. What you can do is be more informed and better prepared.
Since the Camp Fire in November 2018, insurance companies have been looking at their risk management strategies in a rapidly changing market. One carrier will make a change to their underwriting rules, and that change will impact all the other companies in the marketplace. As preferred companies tighten their guidelines, people have had to go to the surplus lines markets and the California FAIR plan. The rapid growth in need for policies in what’s considered “high fire risk” has made the carriers that specialize in this area also tighten up their guidelines.
To add to this fire risk, we also have to consider the Earthquake risk. Here in the East Bay we have both the Hayward and the San Andreas faults so the likelihood of a significant earthquake is higher here than most of California. The risk is so high here that the CEA, who’s rates are based on science, recently instituted a large increase in our area. And a fire following an Earthquake – is one of the risks that scares the insurance companies the most.
After all the doom and gloom, I always like to leave you with some practical advice. So here’s a few things you can do to mitigate risk.
- Trim trees away from your house, especially the roof.
- Control Ivy and other ground covers as these can act as wicks if a fire starts
- Maintain your roof. Remove moss that’s grown over the winter, remove leaves, pine needles and other debris regularly. Inspect the shingles, if they are lifting, consider having an inspection from a professional roofer, and start preparing financially for the day you need to replace your roof. Fire often travels roof to roof. A well maintained roof protects your home from more than rain – it can be the reason your house is spared while your neighbor’s burns to the ground.
- Install an automatic gas shut off valve – and encourage your neighbors to do the same. Some insurance companies require these valves in order to qualify for a new policy. The most common valve is called The Little Firefighter and it must be installed by a plumber because the are accessing your gas line. Our office can refer you to a service that’s both affordable and professional.
- Preparedness is always about people. Not everyone will have everything, and in an emergency, you may have to leave your supplies behind. There’s resilience in community so as the days get longer, enjoy an evening stroll and meet your neighbors. In a disaster, it’s the people who come together who fair the best. Every day is a good day to be a great neighbor.