Few things concern homeowners quite like the threat of a fire. Unlike flooding or other forms of water damage, fires can inflict a great deal of damage in a very short time, much of which may render the property beyond repair. In many cases, homeowner’s insurance covers damage related by fire, unless you happen to live in California or any other area that would be described as fire prone. The proliferation of wildfires on an almost yearly basis across California make the purchase of fire insurance a must.
People moving from other states need to be mindful of these aspects before buying various home insurances. A lot of people move from other states like New York to California due to its Mediterranean-like climate. However, they might be unaware of certain aspects of homeownership. For example, if someone is moving from New York to California, they should learn more about the aspects related to fire insurance in the state.
It is also advisable to check the details of movers insurance while moving to California, including fire coverage. Most people would use long-distance movers from NYC, and therefore must check the coverage offered by these moving companies. Anyone moving during the wildfire season should definitely ensure that the movers have coverage for fire in their policy.
Fire insurance is there to cover any and all damage to your home, property, and belongings as the result of a fire. It may also cover extraneous costs such as lodging and food if your property cannot be occupied due to damage and subsequent repair work. Most policies cover the following:
- Dwelling Coverage: This pays to repair or rebuild your home if it is destroyed or damaged beyond repair by fire or smoke.
- Additional Structures Coverage: This portion of your policy covers any other structures on your property, such as freestanding garages or workshops, sheds, and fencing that may be damaged by fire.
- Personal Property Coverage: This pays for the restoration or replacement of clothing, technology (computers, TVs, phones), furniture, and other valuables within the home or adjacent structures that may have been damaged or destroyed by fire or smoke.
- Additional Living Expense Coverage: This covers any and all of the expenses that may be incurred while your property is being restored and you are unable to live in or occupy your property for a time.
How Severe Are California Wildfires?
Wildfires across the state of California have been a near constant presence over the last five years, with eight of the state’s ten largest fires occurring during that time period, according to data provided by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protections. Wildfires during this period have burned a little over 4% California’s total land mass, an area roughly the size of the state of Connecticut.
In addition, the 2020-2021 drought has been especially severe, with very dry winters follows by extreme summer heat and arid conditions, leaving soil and vegetation parched across many areas of the state, and setting the stage for fires that are increasingly resistant to suppression tactics.
These massive wildfires are making it more difficult for some California homeowners to acquire property insurance, as many private insurance providers will not sell policies to folks who live in areas prone to wildfires. The reason is simple…the risk is simply too great. State law then requires these companies to pool their money in order to provide coverage for those who are unable to purchase policies where they live. This is the California Fair Access to Insurance Requirements Plan (FAIR), which only sells separate fire insurance policies for things such as liability.
Who Is Eligible (And Not Eligible) For California’s FAIR Plan?
The FAIR plan is offered and open to all owner and tenant occupied buildings, condominiums, seasonal homes, and rental properties.
The FAIR plan does not cover properties that are unoccupied for 50% of the year. It also does not cover properties with pre-existing damages that have not been repaired, or any property that has been tied to illegal activity according to state and federal statutes.
When Should You Consider Adding More Fire Insurance Coverage?
As with any insurance policy, there are often additional considerations to examine when obtaining coverage which may require extra steps to be taken in order to be fully protected.
- Older Homes: If you own and older property, you might consider adding building codes coverage, as codes change over time, and this would cover the cost of ensuring that your property complies with new building codes in the event of a fire.
- Customized Homes: If you have done significant customization work on your home, or if it is comprised of rare features that would be difficult or expensive to repair or replace, you have the option of extended replacement cost coverage. Fires can often raise the cost of rebuilding a home beyond the policy limits.
- Expensive Personal Items: If you have personal items that may exceed policy limits, such as expensive phones, computers or camping equipment, you have the option of extending private property coverage.
Why You Do Not Want to Get Caught Without Insurance
As we mentioned, in some areas where the fire risk is higher, your homeowners’ insurance policy might not cover fires. This is commonly found in areas where wildfires may occur or have occurred, as well as canyons and other geographic locales where wind can whip up small fires into large ones, or areas that are not readily serviced by a fire department. With all this in mind, it is important to examine your policy, ask a lot of questions, and make sure you have the necessary coverage in place to ensure that you are protected should the unthinkable happen.
Insurance is often thought of as something that we put a lot of money into but never see any result from. Well, the result is found in the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your property and possessions are covered in the event of a disaster or other unforeseen event. Property damage from fire or flooding can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, more than the average person is able or prepared to pay. Similarly, damage to your vehicles can be quite expensive. By making sure your policies cover all contingencies, you are ready even if your property quite literally goes up in flames.
You even have the option of purchasing moving insurance for those local or long-distance relocations. While most moving companies are bonded and insured, purchasing your own policy is an innovative idea as it supplements that coverage and fully covers damage or loss of belongings to a much greater degree.
Summing It All Up
With all signs pointing towards an increase in the frequency and severity of wildfires in California, it is strongly encouraged that you make sure your policy provides sufficient coverage for all of the potential problems you may experience as a result of damage from wildfires or other similar disasters.