900% increase: The price of homeowners insurance in mountain-areas is rising rapidly

CBS47 Investigates

SHAVER LAKE, Calif. (KGPE) – Many victims of the Creek Fire are also seeing their homeowners insurance rising between 300-900% within one to three years.

For residents in high-risk areas, it has become a battle to find affordable insurance. Companies are pulling out of areas such as Oakhurst, Alder Springs, Tollhouse, and Shaver Lake. Liz Winterton with Foster & Parker Insurance Agency says companies are dropping clients because they are too high-risk.

“The slew of non-renewals here in California has gone through the roof. It’s more and more prevalent,” said Winterton.

Rural communities in the mountains are deemed ‘high risk’ by insurance companies. Depending on your zip code, you may have more difficulty becoming insured. Rates are increasing and options are decreasing.

“They’re limiting their risk. You know a home that’s in the city looks a lot better than a home that’s in the forest,” added Winterton.

Pineridge resident Tim Elming has lived in the mountains his entire life. He has never had to file an insurance claim but he has been dropped by insurance companies, repeatedly for the past six years.

“I was paying $2,800 a year – and it went up to $8,500 a year,” said Elming. “I considered not having insurance.”

Elming was paying $2,800 for 2019-2020. He renewed for $8,500, 300% more what he was paying last year.

It’s like ‘hey, if you want insurance, we’ll give it to you but we’re going to charge you three times more’ and that’s a tough decision to make,” said Elming.

Meegan Kliever is in a similar situation. She says her family lived in the mountains for generations without ever filing a claim. She was paying $1,500 a year; this year the annual rate more than tripled to $4,600 a year.

In Oakhurst, Peter Leinau’s 2017-2018 insurance premium was $1,200 a year. For 2020-2021 he was quoted $11,528. Leinau was dropped from his insurance companies repeatedly and is now on the California FAIR Plan.

“I just could see the writing on the wall, the way the insurance companies were moving out of the state, and pushing people to these more expensive policies. It seemed like a tidal wave coming,” said Leinau.

These residents do not blame their insurance companies and understand insurance companies have previously gone bankrupt because they can’t afford the California wildfires. Instead, they say forest management is the underlying issue.

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