News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

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Family Matters: Insurance can burn

Please excuse me, but I’m going to vent. We received a letter from our insurance carrier (Assurant Insurance) that they will not renew our homeowner’s insurance this year because our house is too close to brush. This is galling because three years ago, another insurance agency refused to renew our insurance for the same reason. I don’t have a problem with an insurance company assessing a home and determining that the risk of fire is too great because of its proximity to brush. What I do have a problem with is that we’ve been with this particular company for three years and the reason we were referred to them was because our house was close to brush, and they specialized in “higher risk” homes. When I called this week to ask why they’re choosing to deny renewal now, they said they didn’t know we were close to brush three years ago. That’s a bunch of horse manure, because I told them up front when I called them initially, and our house hasn’t gotten up and walked closer to the brush in the last three years.

Now what I’ve tried to explain to this and other insurance agencies without success is that our house has over 100 feet clearance to the brush with nonflammable iceplant in the landscape between. We have a noncombustible tile roof and the builders used noncombustible stucco on the outside of our home. We have indoor fire sprinklers throughout the house including the garage. There’s a fire hydrant across the street and a fire station within three miles.

What’s more, the fire chief of the local station came out to our homeowner’s association and indicated that our complex isn’t particularly susceptible to brushfires because we’re at the foot of a mountain and it’s much more likely that a fire would travel up a mountain and head away from us.

The insurance companies aren’t listening. “Sorry, those are our guidelines, and there’s nothing we can do.”

I have gotten quotes from two bigger insurance companies that will write the policy but at considerably greater expense.

My research has turned up a government-backed insurance called the California Fair Plan that will take on houses that are deemed too risky for conventional insurance companies but the coverage is limited.

So we’re stuck between a rock and a brush-filled mountain. I know that we have had wildfires in California, and homes have been destroyed. Insurance companies have taken a hit in paying out to clients who have been devastated by fires.

However, homeowner’s insurance is a necessity because mortgage lenders require it to safeguard their assets, and owners need to protect their homes. I am going to keep searching to see if I can find a company that’s willing to look at the particulars of our situation rather than lumping everyone into a category based on a perceived predetermined distance to hazard.

If all else fails, maybe I’ll break out the shovel and clear out the brush on the mountain behind us. I mean it probably wouldn’t take me any longer than a couple of years to climb the mountain with a shovel and weed-whacker to carve out a 1500-foot perimeter from our backyard.

Columnist Ray Wong is a San Diego-based writer. E-mail comments to raywongwriter@juno.com. Columnists’ opinions reflect those of the individual author and do not necessarily represent those of the North Coast Current.

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Family Matters: Insurance can burn