Santa Barbara Fires Force 30,000 To Evacuate & Evaluate Homeowners Insurance Coverage

The Santa Barbara California fires have already destroyed approximately 75 homes and forced over 30,000 residents to evacuate. While safety is clearly the first priority, many residents are also evaluating their homeowners insurance policies and wondering what is covered.

California's fire season begins early

Although the State of California budgets for its fire season to begin around June 15th, it seems to have started earlier this year with the fires burning in Santa Barbara. However, fire experts say that the “fire season” isn't really dictated by a specific date, but on the climate conditions that exist. In fact, some say that California's fire season now runs from January 1st to December 31st. Regardless of when the season begins, homeowners should always be aware of what their fire policies cover.

Fire insurance policies: What do they cover?

Fire insurance policies generally have four areas of coverage. Here's a quick summary of each area:

  1. Dwelling. This is your house, or the actual dwelling in which you live.
  2. Other structures. These are the other structures on your property that are not part of your “dwelling” such as a garage, shed or pool house.
  3. Personal property. Your personal property items that are located inside your dwelling or other structures such as furniture, paintings, jewelry and clothing. Unless those items are specifically valued and listed in your homeowners’ policy, you're likely to receive a ‘standard’ amount for each item. Every policy differs depending upon the insurer, but these are some common examples:
    • Bicycles: $1,000 per bike, $2,500 total
    • Cash: $200
    • Collectibles: $100
    • Compact discs and electronic games: $1,000
    • Home computers: $5,000
    • Jewelry, watches and furs: $1,500 per item, $2,500 total
    • Silverware, tea sets and trophies: $2,500
    • Stock, securities and manuscripts: $1,000
  4. Loss of use / additional living expense. This is one part of the policy that is often overlooked. It provides coverage for additional expenses incurred over and above your normal cost of living – such as the cost of staying in temporary housing, buying clothing and food and boarding pets when your home is being repaired or rebuilt.

Watch for bad faith insurance practices

While some insurers do a good job at processing fire insurance claims, others do not. If your insurance company acts in bad faith (denying, delaying or acting unreasonably) with regard to your valid claim and you simply can't resolve the matter, make sure to contact an experienced