The Colorado House of Representatives has approved legislation that, if enacted, would expand how insurance companies handle wildfire losses in the state.
House Bill 1111 seeks to increase the amount of lost property insurance that insurance providers must cover up front and extend the time victims have to rebuild their homes. The proposed changes would only apply to future declared fires, which would not help victims of recent wildfires.
The effort comes after Coloradans suffered the most destructive wildfire in state history in December, the Marshall Fire, which destroyed more than 1,000 Boulder County homes. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Judy Amabile, said she had been working on the legislation since before the Marshall Fire, inspired by the East Troublesome Fire, the second-largest wildfire in history. of the state that burned 193,812 acres in Grand County in October 2020.
“After the fires and devastation our communities have experienced, it is clear that we need to update our laws so that future victims of catastrophic fires receive the insurance payouts they are owed,” said Amabile, D. -Boulder. “By passing this bill, fire victims will face fewer barriers to filing and receiving their claims for lost property and living expenses.”
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The House passed the bill by a 54-9 vote on Wednesday, moving it to the state Senate for consideration in the coming weeks.
All nine representatives who opposed the bill are Republicans. Some, like Republican Highlands Ranch Rep. Kevin Van Winkle, said they were unsure if the bill would adequately address the insurance issues facing wildfire victims.
Under the bill, insurers would be required to cover at least 65% of the value of lost property in advance. Current law requires that only 30% be covered without victims creating an inventory of their lost property, a process victims say is unnecessarily difficult and traumatic.
Jon Pratt, who lost his home in the East Troublesome fire, said he had to document every item in his home, including the age, condition, cost of each item, where it was purchased and proof of purchase. After he finished, he said it still took him over a year to settle his claim with an insurance company after the latter offered him a payout of 50% of what they had. ended up settling.
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“We’ve been through hell. It took us eight months — my wife was crying over and over and over — to document it all,” Pratt said during the public hearing on the bill. “4 ounces of mustard, one full in the cupboard, one half full in the fridge. Salt. Pepper. Items $1 up to $80,000. Then you submit it, and they don’t pay you.
The bill would also require insurance companies to give wildfire victims more time to rebuild their homes, covering victims’ living expenses and providing a primary point of contact.
Currently, insurance companies only give victims 12 months to rebuild. Under the bill, victims would get a minimum of 24 months with two options for six-month extensions. Victims could also rebuild in a different location or buy a new house instead.
Grand County Builders Association consultant Bob Hughes called the current 12-month deadline “virtually impossible” due to shortages of housing, contractors and building materials in areas devastated by wildfires. Hughes said none of the 366 homes destroyed in Grand County have been rebuilt in 12 months.
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