Oak Fire evacuees could be eligible for evacuation-related expense reimbursements under their current insurance policy. Commissioner Lara also announces impending action to protect residents from insurance companies non-renewing homeowners’ coverage following Governor’s Emergency Declaration.
LOS ANGELES — Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara reminds residents in Mariposa County who have been ordered to evacuate due to the Oak Fire that they may have homeowners or renters insurance to help with evacuation and relocation costs under Additional Living Expenses coverage, known as ALE. ALE coverage typically includes food and housing costs, furniture rental, relocation and storage, and extra transportation expenses, among other costs. An estimated 6,000 Mariposa residents are under evacuation orders, representing approximately one-third of the county’s population.
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Commissioner Lara also announced an impending action to protect insurance for residents living within the perimeter of the Oak Fire and surrounding areas, following Governor Newsom’s emergency declaration on July 23. Under state law, once the fire’s perimeter is determined by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) in consultation with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, Commissioner Lara will issue a Bulletin identifying ZIP codes that will be subject to one-year protection from homeowners insurance non-renewal or cancellation due to wildfire risk. Commissioner Lara has protected insurance for more than 4 million Californians since 2019.
“Wildfires are devastating both to homes and people’s lives, even if you don’t suffer property damage. I want evacuees to know additional living expenses coverage can be available to help with the stress and financial burden of mandatory evacuations,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “Once the Oak Fire is brought under control, my Department of Insurance will enforce state laws that protect insurance coverage for residents and help them recover.”
Many homeowners are unaware that they may have coverage under their homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies to help them with evacuation and recovery expenses.
In 2020, Commissioner Lara sponsored a new law — SB 872 authored by Senator Bill Dodd — that requires insurance companies to pay at least two weeks of ALE benefits to evacuees and provide an advance payment for no less than four months of ALE without an itemized inventory form, among other new consumer protections. This important consumer protection law removes barriers for disaster survivors to get critical insurance benefits and streamlines wildfire recovery processes for homeowners who suffer from a loss.
Here are some additional tips for consumers:
- Keep all receipts during your evacuation
- Policy provisions, including deductibles, vary by company, and residents should check with their insurance company or agent as soon as possible to confirm coverage, limits, and any other limitations and documentation requirements. Most renter’s policies also typically include ALE coverage.
- Document the date, time, and names of any insurance company employees you speak to regarding your coverage.
- Consumers should make sure any insurance agent or public adjuster offering their services has a valid license by checking online with the Department of Insurance.
- Download the Department’s Top 10 Tips for Wildfire Claimants (also available in Spanish), which includes information about claiming ALE benefits.
- Public adjusters cannot solicit business for seven calendar days after the disaster.
- Don’t forget copies of insurance policies, important papers, and a photo or video inventory of your possessions. An inventory can be completed quickly and easily on your smartphone and safely stored in the Cloud.