FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT INSURANCE REIMBURSEMENT FOR THE CONSOLIDATED DEBRIS REMOVAL PROGRAM

Now that the eligible debris from the SCU Lightning Complex Fires have been removed from your property, it’s time to take a closer look into your insurance policy as you prepare to rebuild. The Right of Entry Permit Form that you signed for participation in the CalRecycle-CalOES Consolidated Debris Removal Program (Program) requires that insurance proceeds specifically identified for debris removal be remitted to the County to reimburse debris removal costs. All debris removal services through the Program were provided at no direct cost to the property owner; but to avoid a duplication of benefits provided by the State, either you or your insurance company may be required to provide payment from your policy for the amount that is designated for debris removal. If you do not have insurance, no reimbursement is required.

The following are answers to frequently asked questions about insurance reimbursement.

What does Duplication of Benefits mean?

Duplication of Benefits refers to payment from more than one source that is used for the same purpose or activity (i.e., you receive money from your insurance company for debris removal while a public assistance program pays for the same activity). The County is obligated to ensure that this duplication does not occur.

What portion of my homeowner’s policy will the County collect for debris removal?

It depends on the policy that you have. There are generally two types of debris removal coverages in a homeowner’s insurance policy:

  • Specified Amount: If your homeowner’s insurance policy contains a separate, debris-specific clause, the County will only collect the specified amount designated in the debris removal clause. These clauses are typically capped at a percentage of the coverage amounts listed in the policy (for example, five percent of the value of a primary structure, other structure, and personal property). You will not owe the County any additional money, even if the actual costs to remove the debris exceeded the amount designated in your insurance policy for debris removal. The County will only collect remaining insurance proceeds, if any, after you have removed all fire related debris.
  • No Specified Amount: If your homeowner’s insurance policy does not have a separate, debris-specific clause and instead includes the costs of debris removal in the total coverage, the County will only collect insurance proceeds for debris removal after you have rebuilt your home. The County will only collect any available insurance proceeds, if any, after the rebuild. If there are no remaining funds, the homeowner will not owe the local government any additional money for debris removal.

Will the County have the right to take all my insurance proceeds?

No. The County will only seek reimbursement from the insurance carrier as stated above to avoid a duplication of benefits for debris removal costs. The County will not attempt to collect any insurance proceeds designated for rebuilding.

Can I use my debris removal insurance policy to remove items that are ineligible for removal under the Consolidated Debris Removal program?

Yes. If you have a specified amount for debris removal in your insurance policy, you may use your insurance proceeds to remove fire-related debris that is ineligible for removal under the Program (e.g., swimming pools, patios, trees, etc.). The County will only collect remaining insurance proceeds, if any, after you have removed ineligible fire-related debris. If your homeowner’s insurance policy does not have a separate, debris-specific clause and instead includes the costs of debris removal in the total coverage, you may use these proceeds to pay for the removal of fire-related debris that is ineligible for removal under the program. The County will only collect remaining insurance proceeds, if any, after you have removed ineligible fire-related debris. In either scenario, the property owner will be required to substantiate all expenditures.

Is there anything I need to do to make sure the government is reimbursed?

Yes.  Your Right of Entry Permit requires you to take the following actions:

  1. Inform the Department of Environmental Health of any homeowner’s insurance for your fire-damaged property; automobile insurance for cars, boats, trailers, or other vehicles damaged on your property; and any secondary insurance or personal property insurance for other fire-damaged items on your property.  If the policy information provided in your Right of Entry Permit Form was incomplete or incorrect, please reach out to the Department of Environmental Health by calling 408-918-1977 or send us an email at [email protected] to correct it.
  2. File an insurance claim against policies that provide coverage for debris removal work on your fire-damaged property.
  3. Inform your insurance companies that you have assigned certain proceeds for debris removal work on your property to the County.
  4. If you are directly issued insurance proceeds for debris and hazard tree removal or vehicle removal from your property, you must inform the Department of Environmental Health of the amount of such proceeds so the County can determine whether remittance is required.  Please notify the Department by calling 408-918-1977 or send us an email at [email protected].

When should I expect the government to collect insurance proceeds?

The County expects to receive a final report from CalRecycle/CalOES detailing the costs of debris removal services on each parcel in Santa Clara County approximately six months after the entire SCU Lightning Complex Fire Consolidated Debris Removal Program cleanup is complete.  The County will use this cost statement to collect insurance proceeds that are owed to the government to avoid duplication of benefits, as explained above.  The County will keep you informed of this process and will make every effort to work directly with insurance companies to reduce the burden on property owners. 

Where can I go for more information?

The County will provide you additional information about the reimbursement collection process as it becomes available.  You can also visit the County Debris Removal Program website (www.EHinfo.org/FireDebris) for up-to-date information and additional details about the Consolidated Debris Removal Program.  For specific inquiries about debris cleanup on your property, you can contact the Department of Environmental Health by calling 408-918-1977 or send us an email at [email protected].

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