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Insurance Commissioner States Homeowners Rights for Fire Victims

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Aired 4/19/09

California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner says insurance companies cannot force owners who lost their homes to rebuild on the same site. KPBS reporter Alison St John has more.

Poizner has issued a legal opinion to clarify how fire victims can use their insurance money, if they don't want to rebuild their homes on the site where their old home burned down.

Poizner: When your house burns down, one thing you might not want to have to deal with is all the hassles involved in building something from scratch. It's really important that homeowners know that they have the option they can take the proceeds from their existing insurance policy and use it to buy an existing home some place else.

Poizner says homeowners are entitled to extended coverage they've paid for, as well as replacement costs, to move elsewhere. However they cannot buy a less expensive home and keep the difference.

The insurance industry has paid out $1.7 billion for claims made after last October's wildfires. Four thousand of 39,000 claims are still pending.

Alison St John, KPBS News.

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