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Many Homes Destroyed In Wildfires Aren’t Rebuilt Due To Insufficient Insurance. A New Bill Could Change That.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

A home destroyed by the Carr Fire in Redding.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California’s wildfires have destroyed thousands of homes in recent years. But in an awful shock after the fact, many homeowners find their insurance doesn’t come close to covering the full cost of replacing their home.

Democratic Assemblyman Marc Levine of Marin County said his bill, AB 1797, could take away some of that secondary shock.

The legislation, now on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, would better inform homeowners about the full replacement costs they face following a wildfire or other disaster.

“What we’re asking insurance companies to do is to provide replacement cost estimates for the full coverage of a home to make sure policyholders are informed of any gaps in insurance that they may have,” Levine said.

Insurers would be required to perform the estimates every-other year. Currently, there’s no rule for how often the estimates must take place.

“That way there are no awful surprises for people who bought a home, insured it, believed they were fully insured and years later suffer a tragic loss — as so many people did and so many people are doing right now — without being fully informed of what it would cost to completely insure,” Levine said.

The Assembly member said his bill was inspired by residents in his Sonoma County district who lost homes in last year’s Wine Country fires and were underinsured due inaccurate or outdated replacement insurance cost models.

He said the legislation won’t do anything to help those who have already lost homes. But it could help others in the future.

It received unanimous support in the Assembly and Senate.

If signed by the governor, Levine said he expects the bill would go into effect immediately.

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