EXCLUSIVE: What is a fire risk score? Here's how it impacts your insurance coverage

ByRandall Yip KGO logo
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
EXCLUSIVE: How fire risk scores can lead to canceled insurance
Homeowners who've done everything they can to reduce their fire risk say they still have been denied fire insurance coverage. Insurance Commissioner Lara wants to change that.

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (KGO) -- The fear of losing fire insurance is real for countless Californians. One factor that determines whether your policy will be renewed is your fire risk score. And if you're asking "what's that?" you're not alone. 7 On Your Side talked exclusively to Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara about lifting the secrecy of these scores and what they might mean for you.

"So I want to give you a quick view of our home here," John Campos said to 7 On Your Side from his San Rafael home.

His home has great views with plenty of green space.

Maybe too much.

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His insurance company notified him his fire insurance will be cancelled in June due to high fire risk.

"As a consumer I feel betrayed by the insurance industry," Campos told us.

He says he's worked with the San Rafael Fire Department and followed their recommendations to "harden" his property by ridding it of overgrown vegetation.

He's even put in a fireproof roof and underlayment.

"We've gone through quite a bit of different mitigation measures to make us less of a risk. However, it doesn't seem to have helped any," said a frustrated Campos.

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Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has heard Campos's story and doesn't think what happened to him is right.

"This is a classic case of why we need to make sure that if you've invested, you know, the thousands of dollars that it takes to harden your home, you should be able to get coverage," Lara said.

He is calling for more transparency in the fire risk score given to homeowners. The scores are calculated by companies hired by the insurance industry and are largely unknown by the general public.

"I want the consumer to know why they got the score, how they can mitigate it and how they can lessen their score," Lara told us exclusively.

Campos says he has no idea what his score is and that it even existed. "If we're unaware, it's obviously not fair to the consumer," he said.

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Lara says his goal is to both reduce fire risk and the cancellation of home insurance policies.

"The insurance companies need to do their part. And through our regulatory process, we're going to force them if need be to write policies in these areas, once people have done the right thing, which is to harden our home, like the case with Mr. Campos," Lara said.

RELATED: Companies reluctant to renew fire insurance for countless Bay Area homeowners

John Campos's insurance company, Pacific Specialty Insurance company, declined to comment for this story.

The American Property Casualty Insurance Association called fire risk scores a critical tool to calculate risks and looks forward to working with the insurance commissioner on the proposal.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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