Coverage for an accidental fire is one thing, but what if you happen to own a home in a geographical area that is at higher risk of wildfire than other parts of the country? Is coverage for wildfire damage part of your insurance policy? Understandably, many people who live in California and other western states are very concerned with high fire risk home insurance policy since wildfires are worsening due to the impact of climate change. The good news is that it’s easier than you think to have coverage for your home in case of wildfire damage.
How Do I Get California Home Insurance in High Fire Risk Areas?
Many homeowners are surprised to learn that coverage for fire damage, including damages caused by wildfires, is typically part of a standard homeowner’s insurance policy. That’s right – instead of searching for a specific policy to add to your existing insurance, your first step should be going over your current policy and inquiring about the coverage that already exists. The chances are high that your current policy already covers all fire damage.
Of course, if you need to find affordable home insurance for your homeowner’s insurance policy, then you may need to do some additional legwork. If you don’t have insurance yet, then your goal will be to find an affordable policy for your area that will offer a well-rounded policy plan that includes fire damage coverage. Some tips to find a good plan include:
Verify Company Covers Your Area
The first thing you will need to do to find affordable home insurance for your property is to narrow your search by insurance companies that cover your area. Typically, it’s a good idea to try for a local insurance company or at least a company that primarily serves your state, as the policy plans will be tailored to the needs of homeowners in your area.
If you can’t find a local insurance company that you like, you may want to branch out to national insurance companies. But be aware that smaller insurance companies typically have better rates, which might be better for your bottom line. It’s also worth noting that you may have additional steps to take if your homeowner’s insurance policy is tied into your monthly mortgage payments; in that case, you may be better off tailoring your existing policy.
Get and Compare Multiple Quotes
The best way to find an affordable plan is to gather multiple quotes and compare what your estimated monthly payments will be. In general, homeowner’s insurance policies in California are a bit pricier than insurance in other states, simply because California is a more expensive state to live in. The average homeowner pays about $1,200 annually for home insurance in California.
Of course, several factors will influence how much your home insurance policy will cost. For example, the lot size of your property, the value of your home, and even the age of your home are all factors. The most influential factors are the amount of land you own for your property and the overall value of your home since these are the base values that your insurance policy will need to cover in case of catastrophe.
Find Policy Plan That Meets Your Needs
The final tip to keep in mind is to find a policy plan that meets your specific needs. In some areas of the country, coverage for flood damage is not included in a homeowner’s insurance policy, even if the home is in a high flood-risk area. That said, most homeowners insurance policies cover all types of fire damage, including accidental damage and wildfire damage.
But you may want additional coverage, such as for earthquakes, which is also a common risk for California homeowners. In fact, the California Earthquake Authority estimates that only 10% of California homeowners have earthquake insurance despite California having a very high risk of earthquake damage. Homeowners in the Bay Area, in particular, may want to look for policies that also offer this type of coverage.
Is Fire Risk Home Insurance More Expensive in California?
Although the average monthly cost for home insurance in California is around $100, if your area has a higher risk of wildfires, then your premium may reflect this. Compared to other states, there is a steeper price for a homeowners policy in California, particularly the portion of the insurance policy dedicated to fire insurance premiums.
The reason why fire insurance premiums are steadily rising is that wildfires are becoming more common, more damaging, and harder to fight off. Naturally, because home insurance companies will need to cover that damage, the collective price for your policy rises to reflect the amount of damage your home may incur after a wildfire. The more likely your home is damaged by fire, the higher your premium will be. The same can be said for drivers who have repeated accidents.
Do All California Homeowners Need Fire Risk Home Insurance?
The cost of fire insurance included in your homeowner’s insurance policy varies greatly in different areas of California. For example, the central valley in California has the lowest risk for wildfires, so insurance policies tend to be cheaper in these areas. Areas of California that see wildfires more often, such as the dense forests in NorCal, will generally have a higher premium since wildfire risk is much greater.
That said, it’s rapidly becoming clear that larger and larger swathes of California are at elevated risk of wildfires, so even areas that do not seem likely to have a fire could be affected in the future. Such is the case for areas like Paradise, which faced extensive loss with homeowners who were underprepared for potential fire damage. In any case, it’s important to double-check that your fire damage policy explicitly states that it covers wildfires, as well as fire damage.
What Will Fire Insurance Cover?
Now that you know what fire risk home insurance may cost in the long run, it’s time to get down to the brass tacks of what this type of policy will cover. In general, fire insurance will cover any type of property damages caused by fire, as well as other financial losses associated with a fire. For example, repairing your home, replacing damaged property, and paying for hotel fees while your home is being fixed can all be covered by fire insurance.
However, just like any other insurance policy, there are some things that your policy may not cover – so if you fall under certain circumstances, you will need to talk to your insurance company about extending coverage. For example, if you have detached structures on your property, such as a garage or a shed, these structures will not usually be covered automatically by your fire insurance policy. Always ensure that every part of your property is covered by your insurance policy.
How Does the Claim Process Work?
If your home has been damaged by a wildfire, then you will first need to file a claim with your insurance company. The claim process can be started on the phone, online, or in person. The sooner you start the claims process, the sooner you can benefit from your insurance coverage, such as using your policy for temporary housing.
After you file your initial claim, evidence of your claim will be collected. This will include photos to document property damage, a claims adjuster assessing the damage in person, and the insurance company reviewing the evidence to make an estimate for your claim. Overall, this process can take several days or weeks. If you aren’t satisfied with the estimate your insurance company offers, you should contact your claims adjuster or insurance agent directly for negotiations or an explanation of the estimate.
Can You Purchase Additional Fire Insurance?
Yes. If you aren’t satisfied with the basic coverage that is bundled into your homeowner’s insurance, you can always purchase extra fire insurance coverage for additional detached structures, or even extend the type of fire damage your policy will cover. While accidental fires, electrical fires, and wildfires may be covered, your insurance plan may not cover specific types of fires, such as gas explosions.
It’s also important to understand the details of when your fire insurance policy is active. For example, your insurance will not cover damages to a home that has been vacant for more than 30 days in a row when the fire happened. If you want coverage for property that isn’t being continually lived in, such as a vacation home, then you will need additional fire insurance.
For California homeowners, it’s abundantly clear that wildfires are placing more homes at risk every year – and that means that homeowners need to be prepared with fire risk home insurance policies to cover any damage associated with wildfires. The good thing is that coverage for wildfire damage is likely already part of your homeowner’s insurance policy, so you may only need to double-check your policy. For more information about fire risk home insurance in California, please contact ARMAC Insurance Services in Victorville, CA today.