Homeowner's insurance policies canceled in fire zone for 2nd straight year

OCCIDENTAL, Calif. (KGO) -- More than one year after the North Bay Fires, homeowners in the fire zone are still getting notices that their fire insurance is being canceled.

The state legislature passed a bill this fall that would protect homeowners from such cancellations for one year after a state of emergency is declared. But as we've learned, after one year, anything can happen.

Jackie and Tom Lueder enjoy life in the secluded town of Occidental.

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Tom is no stranger to fire. He's a retired firefighter for Alameda County.

"If it's going to burn, it's going to burn. Winds blowing and the weather's right. It's going to go," he said.

Two months ago, Liberty Mutual sent Tom and Jackie a notice that their homeowner insurance would not be renewed after some 30 years.

This is the second cancellation notice the Lueders have received from Liberty Mutual in one year's time.

"I didn't want to have to go through this again. I just wanted this to be settled," said Jackie.

Both times they contacted 7 On Your Side and we contacted Liberty. Each time Liberty agreed to reinstate them.

But this time the Lueders say the renewal came with a subtle warning from Liberty.

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"This will probably happen to you more than likely next year," she recalled being told.

Liberty Mutual also canceled the policy of the owner of a home in Forestville.

Like the Lueders, this was the second straight year Liberty has tried to cancel that homeowner's policy.

She asked that we not use her name.

Each time Liberty backed off after 7 On Your Side contacted them.

Despite being renewed, both homeowners in this story worked with a broker to find another insurance carrier, but at a higher rate.

Christopher McCloy runs Yapacopia, a company which connects consumers to insurance brokers.

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"It really doesn't matter what you've done individually on your home to mitigate your danger. If the insurance company doesn't like the risk for the entire area, you're being non-renewed," he said.

The whole situation irritates Tom Lueder.

"To be able to pick and choose just because we're in a fire area, it doesn't seem appropriate. There doesn't seem to be a margin there. If you want to raise the rates, fine. But to completely cancel..."

As we mentioned, a new law bars insurance companies from cancelling homeowner's insurance for one year after a state of emergency is declared. That gives homeowners time to make other arrangements and ensures a policy won't be cancelled before a claim is paid off.

Liberty Mutual tells us it's policy has not changed since it gave us this statement a year ago: "Unfortunately, due to California's significant wildfire exposure, we have taken the difficult but necessary step to responsibly manage our overall exposure to wildfire. This strategy is necessary to safeguard our ability to pay policyholder's homeowner claims."

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