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New legislation aims to compel insurance coverage for fire-caused mudslides

Greta Mart
A Montecito home wrecked by the Jan. 9 debris flows.

Besides having to rebuild their homes and community, survivors of the January 9 Montecito debris flows are now wrangling with their insurance companies. 

Central Coast lawmaker Hannah-Beth Jackson introduced a bill in the state Senate that would legally require insurance companies to cover losses caused by fire-induced mudslides in Santa Barbara County. The bill encompasses any "landslide, mudslide, or mudflow, or any other similar earth movement."

“We’ve been hearing that there are some insurance companies that are saying, well, we’re not going to cover this because it was a mudslide, and flooding and so forth is not covered in our insurance,” Jackson said.

County and state officials widely attribute the mudslides and debris flow as a direct result of the Thomas Fire, which burned 440 square miles in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties over the month of December. Jackson says insurance companies are still reluctant to cover the damages.

“They don’t want to pay it. They don’t want to pay for it. It’s a lot of money. These homes are, in many instances, very valuable, representing a lifetime of hard work,” Jackson said. “People expect these companies to pay up.”

The legislation was inspired by the events in Montecito but, if signed into law, would affect all insurance-policy holders throughout California.

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