Calif. Senate Passes Bill to Help Homeowners Following Disasters

May 25, 2005

Insurance companies would be required to pay living expenses for two years instead of one for homeowners who lose their houses in fires or other natural disasters under a bill approved Monday by the state Senate.

The bill, by Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Daly City, was prompted by complaints from homeowners following the Southern California wildfires in 2003 that scorched 750,000 acres.

After the fires, which destroyed more than 3,600 homes, many victims found it was impossible to have their houses rebuilt within 12 months, Speier said.

The measure wouldn’t cost insurance companies any more money, Speier said, because they would still set aside the same amount of money to pay for living expenses, but would be required to pay it out over 24 months, instead of 12.

The bill only affects homes destroyed in fires or other natural disasters that have been declared a state of emergency.

Speier’s bill also would allow homeowners to opt out of compiling an inventory of everything in their house. If they chose, homeowners could get 85 percent of their policy’s limit on reimbursement for personal property without doing an inventory. To get 100 percent, homeowners would still have to make a list of everything they lost.

“Think about how long it would take you to go through and do a personal inventory,” said Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Redondo Beach. “And that’s with it all still intact. Now try and do that without any records because your filing cabinet and computer were lost.”

The Senate approved the measure 23-14, sending it to the Assembly.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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