UNITED STATES—If you are living in certain regions of California, wildfires have become an unavoidable part of your reality. And while most types of homeowners insurance typically include fire damage coverage, you may now find it difficult or impossible to get this cover. The difficulty level of getting homeowners insurance will depend on where exactly your home is located. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that it is going to cost you.
The insurance industry lives and dies on the measurement of risk. The higher the risk of damages occurring, the higher your premium will be. If risk is considered too high, you may not be able to get insurance at all. This is what is happening in parts of California. The insurance industry is regulated by the state and federal governments, but various branches of government are reluctant to force insurance industries to provide insurance. In some cases, they would rather encourage people to choose different regions to live.
But we are not there yet for many parts of California where risk is somewhat elevated, and you are probably going to find homeowners insurance in your region. However, it will be expensive. Are there ways you can save on home insurance without taking the ridiculous decision to exclude fire coverage?
The good news is that there are ways to lower the cost of your premiums, but you will have to put work into fire-proofing your home.
The “Safer From Wildfires” Framework
In February, California officials released the “Safer From Wildfires” framework. This framework lays out ways to improve your home’s safety features to protect you and your property from fire damage. Many of the guidelines included are required for new homes being built and homes being sold. However, even in cases where it is not required, these guidelines may make insurance cheaper.
According to California’s Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, 13 major insurance companies in California are now willing to offer discounts to homeowners who take on these fire-safety measures.
While these measures will not get you insurance in the most wildfire-prone areas of California, they can protect you and improve your premiums.
Here is what you need to know.
Fire-Proofing Your Home
The “Safer From Wildfires” framework includes a number of measures to take to fire-proof your home. These include:
- Installing a roof rated Class A for fire resistance
- Creating a 5 foot ember-resistant zone around your home (with the inclusion of any fencing)
- Making the bottom 6 inches of exterior walls from non-combustible materials
- Installing ember- and fire-resistant vents
- Upgrading windows by using double panes or shutters
- Enclosed eaves
All of the above relate to fire-proofing the structure of your home. As such, they are some of the most expensive changes you will need to make. Making your exterior walls non-combustible is going to cost you a lot of money. If you are doing so in order to save on insurance, you may never actually break even on the expense. However, it is worthwhile as a safety measure.
The framework also provides guidelines for protecting the surroundings of your home. These include:
- Removing vegetation from beneath decks
- Getting rid of combustible outbuildings such as sheds
- Cutting down or removing trees and other plant life at significant risk of spreading wildfire to your home
All of these measures will help you lower your premium on homeowners insurance, although you will still have to pay far more than you would in regions not prone to wildfires. These measures lower your premiums by protecting the structure of your home. One other way to lower premiums is by protecting your possessions from fire damage.
For example, if you store some of your most expensive possessions in fireproof safes, you may be able to get a better price on your premium. It is, after all, not just the house itself that is worth a significant amount and will cause major financial stress after a fire. The lower the risk of your possessions getting damaged, the more likely you are to see discounts on your premiums.
In 2022, the simple reality is that parts of California are going to be hit by wildfires time and again. The problem is getting worse rather than better. For now, you may be able to get fire coverage in your homeowners insurance, but it will come at a price. Use the above methods to lower the price of your homeowners insurance.