San Diego

AAA Won't Renew Policies for Few Homes in High-Risk Fire Areas

Insurance carrier AAA of Southern California says it won’t renew the homeowner’s insurance policies of some residents living in Poway, identifying their homes as high risk based on physical proximity to potential fire danger.

One of those homes is on Twin Peaks Road, east of Espola Road, and another is on Range Park Road. Other residents have reported on social media apps that they, too, have had policies that haven’t been renewed.

Chuck Daniels says he got a 30-day notice in May. During his 45 years with the company, he says he hasn’t even filed a claim.

“I felt abandoned. After paying premiums for that long, never even turning in a claim, after all that time, and then they just drop you. You feel abandoned,” said Daniels.

In a statement, AAA of Southern California said it must “periodically take steps to mitigate our exposure to catastrophic risk. In California, that means mitigating our exposure to wildfires.”

The company says it has decided against renewing less than 1 percent of its homeowner’s insurance policies.

Daniels says AAA sent a photographer to take pictures of his property, which is up against a canyon. He got the news he wasn’t being renewed a short time later.

“They said their risk management deemed that this area was unsafe and they just didn’t want to insure homes in this area anymore,” said Daniels.

But Daniels is a retired firefighter who says he knows all about fire behavior based on topography, weather and surrounding fuels. He says AAA of Southern California made a bad assessment because his home is below a surrounding hillside.

“We’ve had four fires that have burned through here and none of them have come down. We’ve never even put in a claim for smoke, let alone fire damage,” said Daniels.

Daniels said he had to scramble to find a new carrier.

“I’ve had to go to another insurance company and it’s about $400 more a year. But they actually gave me more coverage than I was actually getting with Triple-A, so it actually worked out OK for me,” said Daniels.

Meanwhile, the state insurance commission recommends going to its website and using its homeowner's insurance shopper tool to help find reputable insurance companies.

Here is AAA of Southern California’s complete statement:

"The Auto Club has been providing insurance services to members for more than 100 years. We want to continue offering home insurance at competitive rates for the long-term, and to responsibly achieve that long-term goal, we must periodically take steps to mitigate our exposure to catastrophic risk. In California, that means mitigating our exposure to wildfires.

Although the risk of fire has increased over the years in many California communities, we have continued to offer home insurance in the state. Over the past few years, we saw a need to re-evaluate our exposure to future catastrophic fire events. Based on that evaluation, we must take steps to remove homes that present the highest exposure to wildfire.

The Auto Club is taking a measured and thoughtful approach in our assessment. We are identifying only the very high risk homes to be non-renewed based on physical proximity to brush. We use a combination of aerial and physical inspection photos which includes identification of surrounding brush vegetation.

As we identify homes for non-renewal, we are offering alternative coverage with a carrier through our in-house agency as well as assistance in securing a policy with the FAIR Plan.

We anticipate less than 1% of our current home policies will not be renewed with us and coverage placed elsewhere."

Jeffrey Spring, Corporate Communications Manager Automobile Club of Southern California.

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