AAA not renewing home policies in risky fire areas

EL CAJON, Calif. (KGTV) -- While fire victims are trying to figure out what's next for their families, other San Diegans are finding out they'll be losing their homeowner's insurance.

10News found out AAA of Southern California is cutting back on who they're willing to cover in fire-prone areas.

An El Cajon woman says it feels like a slap in the face, but as fire season gets longer and more intense, insurance companies are making their policies more restrictive to remain viable for the future.

"It's a very frustrating experience," said Diane Casey, who lived in Harbison Canyon with her husband for more than 30 years.

That's about the same amount of time they've been with AAA of Southern California. Tuesday morning, she got an upsetting phone call.

"The agent said that they were not going to renew our insurance due to the fact that we have brush on the property and it is high risk." Diane says she understands the inherent risk.

They're home survived the Cedar Fire in 2003, thanks in part to the defensible space they left around their property.

"The fire went around us luckily," she said. If brush was the issue, it would have been an issue many others years. Why now?"

Recently, more insurance companies have started limiting their policies in areas prone to fires. It's a response to factors like climate change, drought, and more people moving into high-risk areas for wildfire.

More fires also means insurers are having to shell out more cash to handle the rise in claims. According to the California Department of Insurance, there's been a 15% jump statewide in the number of polices insurers aren't renewing.

AAA sent us a statement reading in part, "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."

The company said less than 1% of current home policies will be impacted, but for Diane and other homeowners, it's an aggravating change that won't insure those may need it the most.

"We're searching for other insurance companies, and we're hoping for the best." We've also heard other reports about AAA not renewing people in Poway and Serra Mesa.

As for alternatives, the Auto Club says it will send a letter with some options to homeowners affected. You can use a comparison tool on the California Department of Insurance website.

There is also the California FAIR Plan. It's a last resort for fire coverage..if you can't get it anywhere else. That plan has actually seen the largest growth in Southeastern San Diego County. It provides basic fire insurance that will meet mortgage requirements, but does not include liability.

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