Companies reluctant to renew fire insurance for countless Bay Area homeowners

"We think it's fundamentally unfair for insurance companies to only pick the most favored homeowners and leave everybody else out in the cold."
BEN LOMOND, Calif. (KGO) -- There's concern that homeowners throughout the Bay Area may have increasing difficulty finding a company willing to insure their homes. New laws are in place to protect homeowners, but are they working?

"Family," Denise Fritsch proclaims as she shows off a family photo she found at the home she grew up in more than 50 years ago.

The Ben Lomond resident evacuated to her mom's house after being chased out of her home by the CZU Complex Fire.


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She's much more relaxed after learning her home escaped any damage.

"So we know how lucky we are, but so many in our community and all up and down the state of California have been affected," Fritsch said.

Her insurer AAA informed her in July it would not be renewing her homeowner's policy because it determined she lived in a fire zone. On Aug. 5, State Farm offered her a policy, writing in an email, "You have two options of when you can start the policy."

After the fires broke out, State Farm had changed its mind, saying on Aug. 24, "Now with the fires, we are in what's called a moratorium, which means right now we are unable to write policies in certain zip codes and Ben Lomond is in that zip code."

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Fritsch said Amica also offered her a policy but withdrew the offer when the fire broke out. She feels let down.

"I'd like to see the State Insurance Commissioner, I'd like to see insurance companies. I'd like to see the governor's office, sit down and come up with a plan where everybody can succeed," she said.

Last month, insurance commission Ricardo Lara issued a notice reminding insurers a bill authored by him in 2018 and signed into law forbids the cancellation of policies within a year of a state of emergency.

Unfortunately for Fritsch, the Department of Insurance told her it doesn't apply to her because AAA sent its cancellation notice before the fires.

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Carmen Balber is executive director of Consumer Watchdog.

"We think it's fundamentally unfair for insurance companies to only pick the most favored homeowners and leave everybody else out in the cold," Balber told 7 On Your Side.

AAA has now offered to sell her a policy that excludes fire Insurance. For that, she can go to the state's FAIR plan, which is much more expensive because it insures higher-risk homeowners.

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