Insurance Woes

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   March 14, 2019

Many residents in Montecito, Santa Barbara, and in both northern and southern Santa Barbara Counties are receiving non-renewals from their insurance companies, a topic that has been discussed at length in both in-person forums as well as online at, a neighborhood social media site. 

Joanne Gonzales, Vice President of local insurance agency Brown & Brown, tells us the non-renewals are being issued for several reasons according to the insurance companies, including homeowners’ past insurance claims and carriers deciding to leave the area due to increased financial risk. Gonzales says the non-renewals are occurring all over California, and is a frustrating situation for both homeowners and insurance agents. 

“Your best line of defense is your agent, who can go to the underwriter and go to bat for you,” she said, adding that her insurance agency and others have been busy fighting for their carriers to keep existing policies following recent fires and mudslides in California. “We are doing everything we can to help you get and keep your coverage,” she said. 

Gonzales’ advice to all homeowners is to start with your insurance agent, and have them fight the non-renewals. Beyond that there are options for coverage, including several reputable carriers such as PURE, a carrier that recently donated $10,000 to the Partnership for Resilient Communities to install a series of steel ring nets in our local canyons (Brown & Brown also donated $10,000 to the cause). Premiums in disaster areas are roughly double what they were a few years ago, but Gonzales says she expects things will get better as the mudflow risk and flooding risk fades following the Thomas Fire. 

The last resort is the California FAIR Plan, which is a Los Angeles-based association comprised of all insurers authorized to transact basic property insurance in California. Coverage is available to all California property owners, as long as required guidelines are met (there are limits on vacant homes and homes with existing damage). Because FAIR coverage is capped at $1.5 million, voluntary insurance companies are offering special subsidy programs that will provide for excess coverage. “It’s a creative way to get the coverage we need here in Montecito,” Gonzales said. 

Gonzales says she wants homeowners to know they are not alone in dealing with non-renewals and difficulty getting new coverage on home purchases in the County. “I myself was issued a non-renewal because I live near a hillside,” she said, adding that she was able to find replacement coverage after a lot of research. 

“Homeowners should know that they can get coverage, it’s just not as easy or affordable as it used to be,” she said. 


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