SAN DIEGO – The vast majority of California homeowners have insurance that covers fire damage. But that doesn’t mean you can breathe easy.
Property insurance lawyers say it’s not uncommon for insurers to do everything possible to minimize payouts, especially after catastrophic blazes such as the ones now raging in Northern and Southern California, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“In a mass loss, they’re looking at their overall payments,” said Joshua Haffner, a Los Angeles lawyer specializing in fire-related claims. “They’ll do what they can to keep payments down. And they’re getting very smart about paying less.”
He said many homeowners may not be aware that property insurers have been slipping provisions into people’s policies limiting coverage for damage caused by smoke and ash.
In major fires, hundreds or even thousands of homes may be consumed by flames. But thousands more can be damaged in large and small ways by plumes of smoke and ash traveling for miles beyond the burn zone.
Some policies may require homeowners to report any such damage within 90 days to qualify for coverage. Others may cap coverage at a certain level, frequently $5,000.
Such provisions often are inserted into policies during routine renewals. Although all changes must be disclosed, many homeowners may not pay attention or may not read the fine print.