Wildfire victims make inroads on Colorado insurance overhaul

Wildfire victims make inroads on Colorado insurance overhaul

16 April 2013

published by www.coloradoan.com

USA — Colorado wildfire victims gained ground Tuesday when legislation aimed to afford homeowners greater protection by their insurers was amended to include some of their wishes.

Under the revised proposal, victims of disasters would have a year to submit inventories of their destroyed property to insurers, and mobile homes, manufactured homes and condominiums would enjoy the same insurance safeguards as stick-built houses as long as their owners consider them a primary residence. Second homes and vacation rentals still would not receive enhanced protections.

Last summer’s devastating wildfires in Colorado, including the High Park Fire near Fort Collins, inspired Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, to push for a legal overhaul of homeowners insurance.

Some wildfire victims have complained they were underinsured for the true cost of rebuilding their homes and their insurers paid less than they had hoped for property that was destroyed along with their homes.

The fire victims also have asked lawmakers to require insurance companies to extend the amount of time that they provide living expenses to displaced homeowners and the deadlines to submit inventories of destroyed property.

Fire victims have testified that their ideal law would grant two years of living expenses from insurance as the standard. The insurance industry countered that any overreach in mandates for insurance companies could result in higher premiums for policyholders statewide.

While they didn’t get everything they asked for, Kefalas said policyholders came out ahead in the changes to his bill. A suite of earlier amendments to the bill pushed by insurance industry lobbyists prompted outcry from wildfire victims that their worries were being shoved to the back of the line.

“We continued to hear from the homeowners and really tried to address their concerns,” Kefalas said.

The Colorado House already passed the bill with broad support, in part because of its concessions to the insurance industry. The House will get another look at the revised legislation if it passes in the Senate, something Kefalas is confident will happen. He believes the bill strikes a balance between the interests of policyholders and insurance companies that most lawmakers will find palatable.

Next, the proposal faces debate in the Senate.

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