Finding Homeowners Insurance in Marin County More Difficult Due to Recent California Fires
Until recently, it was fairly easy to obtain homeowners insurance here in Marin County. That has changed with the recent devastating fires in the state, which have caused underwriters to take another look at their exposure to claims in California. According to a recent Los Angeles Times article, 1.1 million structures are in severe fire risk zones. No wonder insurers are taking a second look.
This reminds me of the early 1990s right after the Northridge Earthquake when insurers were dropping policies – until the California Earthquake Authority was formed and began offering Californians high-deductible earthquake insurance to take the pressure off the local market. Once the CEA was formed, the homeowners insurance market began to return to normal.
Some Areas of Marin County Are Considered Higher Risk Than Others
According to the maps published in 2008, there are two areas in Marin County ranked by Cal Fire as very high risk: parts of Mill Valley and the Ignacio area of Novato west of Highway 101. Not coincidentally, I hear at least once a month from an agent who is trying to help a client secure homeowners insurance in Mill Valley.
An Ounce of Prevention…
If you currently have homeowners insurance in Marin County don’t take it for granted and assume that it will be renewed when the policy ends. In addition to monitoring claim history and fire risk maps, some insurance companies are working with private risk management companies such as Verisk to assign risk values by address.
A few steps you can take to help ensure you maintain your existing insurance:
Bundle insurance with one carrier: By combining auto, home, umbrella / liability and other types of insurance with one company, they may be less likely to cancel your policy as they look to reduce risk in your area.
File only catastrophic claims: There was a time when it was normal to file insurance claims for even small events, such as leaking hot water heaters and toilets. However insurance companies look at the history of claims when considering whether to continue underwriting a property. Raise your deductible and use your insurance only if you suffer a large loss.
Maintain A Fire Safe Home and Property: Increasingly, insurance companies are using aerial surveys and sending inspectors to properties to evaluate risk on a home by home basis. They are looking for wood piles next to homes, gutters full of leaves, tree branches hanging over roofs, tall grasses that have not been cut, and other potential sources of ignition. Read my blog article “Marin County Fire Protection” for tips on how to create a defensible space around your home and reduce the risk of fire catastrophe.
Work With Your Neighbors to Obtain A Firesafe Certification for Your Neighborhood: I was surprised to read that Marin County has one of the highest penetrations of Firesafe certifications in the country. As of this writing, 30 neighborhoods in Marin County have earned that certification, which can lead to lower insurance premiums and higher insurability for the homes that participate. Learn more here.
Pay Your Premiums On Time: This goes without saying. Insurance companies also look at credit ratings when considering insurability.
Companies Offering Homeowners Insurance in California
USAA (my carrier – they are wonderful) – (800) 531-8111
Farmers Insurance – (800) 493-4917
Options If You Have Been Denied Homeowners Insurance in Marin County
The California FAIR Plan (Fair Access to Insurance Requirements) is a consortium of insurers who provide bare bones insurance of last resort, once conditions are met. It is costly and likely will not provide the same level of insurance as traditional market-based insurance plans.
I hope you have found this information helpful. I would encourage you to leave questions & comments in the section below. Marin insurance agents are welcome to do so as well. A well-qualified agent will be able to advise you on your options in finding homeowners insurance here in Marin County.