Fire insurance nonrenewals hitting foothills and mountain communities hardest, survey suggests

Published on Aug. 28, 2019

Results from a Placer County survey on fire insurance nonrenewals are confirming the growing consensus that thousands of Placer residents are facing a crisis of insurance affordability.

Consistent with ongoing feedback from residents, survey data suggest that foothills and mountain communities are being hit hardest by nonrenewals, though impacts were also reported in rural areas of western Placer County such as Lincoln and Granite Bay.

Of the 2,156 survey takers, 50% reported that their insurance policies had been nonrenewed or canceled, and another 15% reported that their premiums had increased substantially. More than 34% responded that their new policy cost them more than double their previous one, with several reporting increases of more than 500%.  

Only 14% of those whose policies were nonrenewed had an insurance provider conduct a site visit beforehand. 

“It’s clear that wildfire risk in California is increasing, and we acknowledge that insurers need to adjust rates to take that risk into account,” said District 5 Supervisor Cindy Gustafson. “Our communities are doing their part by taking strong steps to reduce wildfire risk, though. So we will continue to do everything we can to help make sure that insurers consider those efforts, too.”

A summary of the survey answers is available on Placer’s website here

Information on policy nonrenewals released Aug. 20 by the California Department of Insurance showed that more than 9,000 Placer residents were dropped by their insurers between 2015 and 2018. Those numbers do not include any nonrenewals that may have followed the catastrophic wildfires of 2018.

 Placer’s informal survey, available countywide from July 18 through Aug. 18, was intended to offer further insights into the insurance crisis to inform future efforts to address the insurance challenges facing its residents.  

Though local agencies can’t regulate insurance companies or rates, within its authority, Placer County continues to press for solutions; coordinating closely with neighboring counties to pursue a unified appeal to state and federal agencies for help, and working with state legislators on California Senate Bill 824 (passed in 2018) to offer additional protections for policyholders.

In response to a letter of concern sent by the county Board of Supervisors in July, California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara will participate in a community town hall on insurance challenges tonight at the Gold Country Fairgrounds, 1273 High Street in Auburn. To ensure that as many questions can be answered as possible, participants are asked to submit them online in advance at https://www.placer.ca.gov/insurancetownhall. The event will be livestreamed on Placer’s website, https://www.placer.ca.gov, and on Placer County’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/placerCA.

“Some of the premium increases folks are seeing are very concerning and unsustainable,” said District 3 Supervisor Jim Holmes. “We’re relieved and grateful to see Commissioner Lara’s attention to this critical issue and we are committed to doing whatever we can to be a part of the solution.”

Lara this month announced more support for affected homeowners, dispatching a new strike team to hard-hit areas to connect residents to available resources and assist local government with assessing and responding to insurance issues.