Colorado Legislature Passes Insurance Coverage Extensions for Wildfire Losses | Content reserved for subscribers

Colorado wildfire victims may soon get more immediate and substantial help from insurance companies under legislative changes approved by the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday.

House Bill 1111 Increase the amount of lost property that insurers must cover up front and extend the time victims have to rebuild their homes. The proposed changes would only apply to future declared fires, not recent wildfires.

Lawmakers are tackling a slew of wildfire bills months after the worst wildfire in state history, the Marshall Fire, which destroyed more than 1,000 homes in the county from Boulder. HB 1111 has been in the works since the East Troublesome Fire, which burned 193,812 acres in Grand County in October 2020 and is the second largest wildfire in state history.

“There is no doubt that there will be others. That’s the sad reality,” said Senate Speaker Steve Fenberg’s godfather, D-Boulder. “It’s something that unfortunately isn’t going to bring much relief to those who have already been through these horrific disasters. But it’s something that many of us have learned from these disasters that we can apply to turn things around. politics and make it a better situation for those in the future.

HB 1111 would require insurers to cover at least 65% of the value of property lost in advance. Current law only requires 30% without victims creating an inventory of their lost property, a process victims say is unnecessarily difficult and traumatic.

During public comment sessions on the bill, dozens of wildfire victims said they were forced to document every item in their home – including age, condition, cost of each item, where it was purchased and proof of purchase – only to be offered a fraction of what the items were worth after months or years of bargaining.

“In 2020, there were four major wildfires in my district,” said Sen. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, who also sponsored the bill. “The following year…we started hearing these stories of people who were in temporary accommodation and they were still trying, a year later, to take inventory of their personal contents.”

The bill would require insurance companies to give wildfire victims 36 months to rebuild their homes, instead of the current 12. Victims could also rebuild in a different location or buy a new house instead.

Grand County Builders Association consultant Bob Hughes called the current delay “virtually impossible” due to shortages of housing, contractors and building materials in communities affected by the wildfires. Hughes said none of the 366 homes destroyed in Grand County have been rebuilt in 12 months.

The Senate passed HB 1111 by a 29-5 vote, following House approval 54-9 in March. All 14 lawmakers who opposed the bill are Republicans, with some saying the bill would raise insurance rates or fail to properly address issues facing wildfire victims.

The bill will now go back to the House to approve Senate changes before being submitted to Governor Jared Polis.


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Justin D. O'Neill