Liberty Mutual, other insurers start dropping risky clients

Some homeowners at high risk of wildfires in one state are being hit with non-renewals

Liberty Mutual, other insurers start dropping risky clients

Catastrophe & Flood

By Lyle Adriano

More homeowners in California could find themselves without insurance for their homes, as insurers continue to pull out of areas vulnerable to wildfires.

In a feature story by The Press Banner, one homeowner who had purchased coverage from Liberty Mutual some 35 years ago recently found out that the insurer chose not to renew his home insurance policy.

Bob St. Clair received a “notice of non-renewal” from Liberty Mutual that told him that his home – In the Whispering Pines neighborhood of Scotts Valley – was not only facing increased risk of wildfire but was also difficult for emergency vehicles to access. Therefore, the insurer informed him that it would not be renewing his policy.

“I don’t really blame Liberty Mutual, it was a business decision, they gave me more than 60 days’ notice and handled it fairly,” St. Clair told The Press Banner. “If I have any advice for other homeowners facing the same situation, it would be to shop around.”

Liberty Mutual is not the only insurer distancing itself from wildfire-prone homeowners in California; earlier this month, AAA of Southern California announced that it would stop renewing insurance policies of “very high risk” homes that present the highest exposure to wildfire.

The number of non-renewals among at-risk Californian properties has only increased, a report noted. According to a report by the State Department of Insurance published in December 2017, “there has been a significant increase in insurer initiated non-renewals in the California counties with the highest proportion of homes located in high-risk-for-wildfire areas.”

According to the same report, 58 counties across California are all at risk of wildfire. Nearly all of the top 18 counties from that list are located in the northern, Sierra Mountain counties between Yosemite and the Oregon border. The top ranked county for highest wildfire risk, Tuolumne County, came in with 81.1% of dwellings in “high” or “very high” risk areas.

“Now, with the recent 2017 wildfires that have caused many fatalities and destruction of thousands more structures, we can expect that the insurance issues will only worsen,” the report cautioned.



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