What are your home insurance options for high fire areas?

Have you received a double digit increase on your homeowners insurance rate or been flat out non-renewed? It’s becoming more and more common in California every year, and the trend doesn’t appear to be stopping any time soon. Over 350,000 homeowners were non-renewed from 2015-2019, and we expect an even greater increase in 2020 due to the Paradise fire and others.

So what are your options?

Depending where you live, there are still standard homeowners insurance companies actively issuing new policies. The more traditional companies like Nationwide, State Farm, and Travelers will be your best bet because they offer the most comprehensive coverage at competitive rates. If you’re far from a fire department, a tough to access area, or a public fire hydrant isn’t nearby, that might not be an option though. What do you do if the standard market won’t insure you?

The California FAIR plan is a state backed insurance program that will insure your home for some of the more basic, but costly, claims scenarios: Fire, lightning, smoke, and optionally windstorm/hail, explosion, riot, aircraft, vehicles. The FAIR plan isn’t as complete as a traditional homeowners policy, and is missing coverage like water damage, collapse (fallen tree), liability, theft, and more. A handful of companies offer a “Difference in Conditions” policy, that works in tandem with the FAIR plan to create something very similar to a traditional homeowners policy. There are only about a dozen companies currently offering coverage.

If the standard market and FAIR plan can’t offer what you want, then the “Surplus Lines” market is going to be your last option. They deal with the very tough to place homes in extremely high fire areas that have unique characteristics or high rebuild values. With Surplus Lines policies you have more flexiblity to choose the coverage you want, but be aware that most limits don’t come standard, and you have to specifically request the coverage you want.

In any scenario, working with an insurance broker who has multiple options and specializes in high risk homeowners insurance is going to be your best bet. They should have contacts and options for any of the three scenarios outlined above.

3 Biggest Mistakes People Make After An Accident (and how to avoid them)

Car accidents are confusing and stressful. Learning what to do and what not to do will save you time, headaches, and money. Here are 3 of the biggest mistakes people make:

1. Admitting fault. Believe it or not, even if you feel an accident was your fault, the police and insurance companies may disagree. Unless there is really no question (hitting a parked car), you don’t do yourself any favors by admitting fault. It’s best to exchange information with the other driver, submit it to your insurance company, and let them do the investigation and hard work. Many times an accident isn’t declared 100% one person’s fault, and your DMV report will only show the accident as “at-fault” if you are determined to be 51% at fault or greater.

2. Not calling the police. Very minor fender benders may not need a police officer to come, but any time there is an injury, a dispute, or moderate (or greater) damage, you need to call the police. They prepare a police report which gives their initial opinion on who is at fault, and police can help calm down a tense situation. Any damage, location information, and injuries get logged into the police report, which helps make your case.

3. Not getting contact information from witnesses. A witness can be your best friend if there is a question to who was at fault. If you have a different version of what happened in an accident, a 3rd party can the proof you need to back your side of the story up. Insurance adjusters compare both parties’ stories, and damage to the vehicles to determine who is at fault. When that’s inconclusive, they look to anyone else who saw the accident.

Covered California Open Enrollment 2018

Covered California open enrollment for policy renewals is beginning October 11, and new rates will be available same day. Overall, the process and coverage is going to be very similar to what you’ve experienced with prior renewals, however there are a couple important changes I want to make you aware of:

Rates are increasing for most plans, like they do every year. EMost plans should be seeing adjustments in line, or slightly more, than in years past. One exception is if you have any children under 19 enrolled in Covered California (does not apply to Medi-Cal) on your account. Currently, all children under 19 are charged the same rate regardless of age. On Dec. 31. a provision in the ACA is expiring, and each age will now have their own set of rates. Some of you will see a decrease specifically for your child, and some of you may see a significant increase.

Kaiser Permanente is looking to be a very strong option in Santa Cruz county going forward. They have facilities in Santa Cruz, Watsonville, and Scotts Valley, and are aggressively expanding in the area. Some of their plans are nearly 50% less expensive than the Blue Shield and Healthnet equivalent. Kaiser is an HMO, which may mean you’ll need to select a new primary case physician.

Lastly, Anthem is not going to offer individual plans in Santa Cruz County in 2018. If you have an Anthem plan, you’ll need to select a new insurance company.

Update 08/12/17: Silver tier plan rates will be increasing more than other tiers, due to the executive order signed by the president to remove cost-share subsidies.

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Why Full Coverage Auto Insurance Isn’t Actually “Full Coverage”

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