Nationwide Requiring Customers To Mitigate Wildfire Risk Or Lose Coverage

 Wednesday, August 22, 2018

 The Columbus Dispatch

As massive wildfires wreak havoc again in California, Nationwide is trying to limit the damage — both to homeowners and to its bottom line. The Columbus-based insurer does business in California and so far has received more than 300 claims from the latest round of wildfires. It is working with homeowners to reduce the risk of fires. Those who don’t comply with the instructions risk losing Nationwide as an insurer. “Nationwide continues to carefully manage its property portfolio in states where wildfire exposure is prevalent,” spokesman Eric Hardgrove said in a email. “For the past several years, we have proactively inspected homes to ensure members take appropriate steps to mitigate their property against the risk of wildfires." Insurance Commissioner Jones told the AP that he expects more insurance companies to opt not to renew policies or to simply stop writing homeowners policies in areas with the highest fire risk. He also anticipates rate increases, and for parts of the state to be reclassified from safe to high-risk.

State officials don’t track exactly how many people are dropped by their insurance companies, but the number of homeowners complaining about it happening more than tripled from 2010 to 2016.

Hardgrove said Nationwide implemented a rate increase in March that was submitted to the state before last year’s fires.

The problem is most pronounced in high-risk fire areas. In the 24 California counties with the highest fire risk, the number of non-renewals increased 15 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to a Department of Insurance report. Insurers dropped more than 10,000 policies in those counties in 2016.

Consumers may also get frustrated when they find out their policies will not be renewed or cannot find coverage easily.

“We do have a healthy market and we do have insurance available,” said Janet Ruiz, the West Coast representative of the Insurance Information Institute. “You do have to shop and compare.”
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