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May 12, 2023

Polis Signs Laws to Help Victims of Wildfire Rebuild

New laws improve access to insurance plans, address underinsurance, reduce the costs of rebuilding and protect tenants in properties damaged by wildfire

BOULDER, CO – Governor Jared Polis today signed four bills into law that will protect homeowners’ access to insurance plans, address underinsurance issues that leave property owners without the coverage they need, lower the cost of rebuilding, and ensure tenants aren’t forced to return to unsafe rental properties.  

HB23-1174, sponsored by Representatives Kyle Brown and Judy Amabile and Senators Dylan Roberts and Mark Baisley, addresses homeowner underinsurance for damaged homes or structures. It requires home insurance companies to offer a variety of options to cover the costs of repair or replacement for a damaged or destroyed structure. 

HB23-1288, sponsored by Speaker Julie McCluskie, Representative Amabile, and Senator Roberts creates a nonprofit public entity to guarantee Coloradans with homes and commercial properties located in wildfire zones can receive homeowners or commercial insurance if insurance companies do not offer them coverage. This law ensures Coloradans will be able to insure their homes and commercial spaces as wildfires grow in frequency and destruction.

“The rising frequency of wildfire disasters is making it harder for property owners to find insurance plans while many homeowners that do have insurance have found their plans won’t cover all their rebuilding costs,” said Rep. Judy Amabile, D-Boulder, sponsor of HB23-1174 and HB23-1288. “We’re looking ahead to stabilize the insurance industry by creating a plan of last resort in the event a property owner can’t find an insurance company that will offer them coverage. With the laws Governor Polis just signed, property owners will have additional coverage options to ensure their homes are protected when disaster strikes.” 

“Wildfires are becoming increasingly frequent and destructive, and that is making it difficult or sometimes impossible for folks who live in rural communities like mine to purchase homeowners insurance that meets their needs,” said Senator Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, sponsor of HB23-1174 and HB23-1288. “The bolstered protections offered by HB 1174 and the FAIR Insurance Plan will help protect vulnerable Coloradans and allow people to insure their homes, businesses, and property against potential disasters.”

“I’m proud that Governor Polis has signed my bill into law to offer Coloradans additional insurance options that will protect them from the devastating costs of rebuilding after a wildfire,” said Rep. Kyle Brown, D-Louisville, sponsor of HB23-1174. “After the Marshall Fire, thousands of homeowners faced unanticipated rebuilding costs because their insurance plans didn’t offer enough coverage. Now, Coloradans will be able to purchase coverage that meets their needs and protects them from the increasing risk of more destructive fires.” 

“Wildfires are becoming more frequent and destructive in Colorado, and we need to ensure our neighbors and communities are protected,” said Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, sponsor of HB23-1288. “Through this legislation, we’re creating a FAIR insurance plan especially for Coloradans living in wildfire prone areas to insure their homes, businesses and livelihood. Property owners are already struggling to find insurance, and we are hearing from constituents that some may not be able to purchase insurance at all. We’re committed to doing everything we can to help property owners insure their structures as climate change continues to drive increasingly destructive natural disasters.”

HB23-1240, sponsored by Representatives Kyle Brown and Judy Amabile and Senator Fenberg, creates a state sales and use tax exemption for construction and building materials for homeowners looking to rebuild or repair their home that was damaged in a declared wildfire disaster. The exemption for qualified purchases is administered through a refund process, which must be claimed by June 30, 2028, and allows homeowners that have already made purchases to retroactively claim a refund.

“Folks recovering from the Marshall Fire have enough to deal with, and shouldn’t be taxed on rebuilding their homes,” said Senate President Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder. “This law will make it easier for survivors to put their lives back together and move forward from this disaster.”

“The sales tax exemption Governor Polis signed today will save victims of the Marshall fire money as they rebuild their homes,” said Rep. Judy Amabile, D-Boulder, sponsor of HB23-1240. “There’s no reason the government should be bringing in tax revenue that comes as a result of rebuilding from a natural disaster. This law will make it easier for victims of recent fires to get back on their feet and rebuild their lives.” 

“With global inflation increasing the cost of rebuilding homes, it’s been challenging for many families to move back into their residences after the Marshall Fire,” said Rep. Kyle Brown, D-Louisville sponsor of HB23-1240 and HB23-1254. “The bills Governor Polis just signed create new protections for renters so they aren’t forced to live in properties that are uninhabitable, and save Coloradans money as they rebuild their homes.” 

HB23-1254, sponsored by Representatives Brown and Javier Mabrey and Senator Lisa Cutter, bolsters renter protections in the state’s warranty of habitability by adding lack of compliance with certain standards following an environmental public health event to the list of conditions that make a property uninhabitable. It also adds additional protections for members of a vulnerable population, including allowing such a tenant to terminate their lease if certain conditions are met.

“As our climate becomes more unpredictable and weather becomes increasingly severe, the number of homes impacted will continue to grow,” Senator Lisa Cutter, D-Jefferson County, said. “This new law will bolster critical protections for Colorado renters and ensures folks won’t be forced into unsafe living situations if disaster strikes.”

“The Marshall Fire displaced many Coloradans and when they were unable to find anything available that was in their budget, many felt pressured to return to the damaged rental property just to have a roof over their head,” said Rep. Javier Mabrey, D-Denver, sponsor of HB23-1254. “No one should feel cornered into living in housing that can cause negative short or long-term health effects, which is why we brought this legislation to give both landlords and renters the tools to repair their property to a safe living condition. With this law, we’re streamlining and clarifying the Warranty of Habitability statute to protect renters and help landlords know where the goal post is when it comes to remediating their property.”

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