State Calls on Property Insurance Companies to Push Back Fire Claim Deadlines

The California Insurance Commissioner urged insurers to give homeowners more time to file claims and complete rebuilding.

California Wildfires
Noah Berger/AP

The state's top insurance regulator on Friday said property insurance providers should extend claim deadlines for wildfire victims who are still rebuilding.

Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara issued an official notice, requesting insurance companies broadly relax certain policy requirements on property insurance policyholders for at least 90 days after the end of the ongoing coronavirus state of emergency.

“As our nation faces the greatest public health emergency of our time, policyholders should not be forced to lose their coverage or benefits because they cannot meet a deadline while complying with federal or state directives,” Lara said in a news release.

While the Department of Insurance notice appears to include all property insurance claims, it specifically mentions homeowners who are still recovering from the 2018 fires that swept across much of the state.

"The Department has received complaints from consumers and local and state officials that certain residential property insurance companies are insisting that insureds (who suffered losses in the November 2018 wildfires) must continue to repair and rebuild their homes during the COVID-19 crisis to obtain full replacement cost and Additional Living Expense (ALE) benefits," the notice says. It goes on to ask insurance providers to take into consideration additional delays that may come about because of the virus, such as a loss of available construction crews.

The Insurance Information Institute, or III, which represents insurance companies, told NBC Bay Area it is reviewing the official notice.

"The insurance industry is helping policyholders during the Covid-19 pandemic in many ways including payment relief, virtual claims processing and enhanced online and phone service," III told NBC Bay Area. "We will take into consideration the impact of Covid-19 on victims of the November 2018 wildfires and the rebuilding process as a part of the claims process."

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