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California Legislators Propose Greater Wildfire Insurance Protection

SACRAMENTO (KPIX 5) -- California lawmakers are taking steps to protect Californians from the suffering that follows a wildfire.

The North Bay wildfires drastically have altered the physical  landscape of the area, and now they may also change the way insurers deal with their claims.

Legislators from fire ravaged areas across the state have drafted a set of bills that they hope would help survivors through the process.

New protections for homeowners were unveiled Tuesday.

Some of the biggest proposed changes are:

SB 894 - would allow survivors the freedom to repurpose unused portions of their coverage toward rebuilding their home. It would also prevent insurance companies from dropping coverage for at least two years after a disaster.

SB 897 - would require insurance companies to cover things like Airbnb or RV rentals as an additional living expense while one's home is being rebuilt, because hotels and long-term rentals aren't always available. It also allows policyholders the option to receive up to 80 percent of their contents claim coverage without having to list out the items they lost. It's the only new legislation that would retroactively help fire victims.

AB 1797 - extends the time people have to rebuild, from two years to three years.

California State Senator Bill Dodd said, "Knowing that more fires, floods and mudslides will happen, we need to take action now to protect consumer action."

These are all good things for those who lose everything in a catastrophe, but it will likely be more work and more expensive for insurance companies, which could make things more expensive for all of us.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said, "These are very common sense, reasonable proposals that follow through on the promise insurers are making to help recovery in communities."

Six of the eight bills in this package have already been submitted, and the final two will be submitted soon to the assembly.

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