California Couple Denied Home Insurance After Draining Pool for Water Conservation

Obtaining a home insurance policy in California is becoming increasingly difficult. Because of the danger posed by wildfires, State Farm and Allstate halted the issuance of new policies. New clients are being restricted by others. Several 7 On Your Side viewers have reported that their long-standing AAA insurance are not being renewed, and the reason has nothing to do with the recent wildfires.

These residents were taken aback when they learned that planes and satellites had been photographing their homes. They were shocked to learn that AAA had canceled their policy due to reasons as varied as yard litter and draining a pool to save water.

CJ Sveen, an Oakley resident, had recently received word that his auto club, AAA, would not be renewing his policy for homeowner’s insurance. AAA warned him about junk and potential dangers in his yard. “Apparently they have some pictures and they noticed clutter,” Sveen said. “I find that offensive. How dare you judge me because of my stuff!”

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Sveen claims the backyard is his workshop and not a safety risk. “There was no chance to mitigate, clean up, do anything,” Sveen explained. “It was just, you’re fired.” AAA sent a similar notice of cancellation to George Nadeau of San Rafael, but the reason given was that his roof had “exceeded its useful life.”

I think obviously that their drone surveillance was bogus,” Nadeau said. “And that’s crazy. We have one of the best maintained residences in the neighborhood. And we’ve kept very good care of our roof!” Nadeau provided a local agency with receipts for a new roof seven years ago and a $4,000 upgrade from March of this year. He also included some images of the completed roof.

We’ve lived in this house for 50 years and have maintained our roof in a very effective way. So to have an insurance company telling me that I’m not doing my job is a little bit annoying,” Nadeau said. This, according to the corporation, is a final choice. A local agency was approached by Nadeau.

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The homeowner was taken aback when his insurance company abruptly terminated his coverage after 15 years with no claims filed and his residence located outside of a fire hazard area.

“And she literally said they’re looking for excuses to eliminate homeowners policies in this area. I’m 85 years old. I feel like I’m a victim of some kind of conspiracy. Give us some consideration for the good citizens we’ve been all these years,” Nadeau said.

When AAA decided not to renew Marilyn Smith’s coverage, the company gave a strange explanation. In an effort to conserve water during the drought, she and her husband had drained their swimming pool. “I think I was in so much shock, I couldn’t believe it,” Smith said. “I mean, we were both in shock. Because the pool is empty. What’s that got to do with canceling your home insurance?”

When their grandchildren left for college, the couple drained the pool. “We decided well, we don’t use it you know, the kids have moved in different states… that saves us on maintenance… and then just the water, because it does evaporate, so you have to be putting water in there every couple of days… and that’s not a small little pool. Water was becoming very expensive,” Smith said.

They’ve converted the vacant pool into a greenhouse, where they cultivate vegetables in containers. However, the AAA report stated that the pool had “deferred maintenance.” “She just flat out said because the pool was empty,” Smith said. “I don’t understand what their problem is. Because you empty a pool and you’re saving on water.”

CSAA Insurance Group, the parent of AAA, said, “CSAA Insurance Group has provided homeowners insurance to AAA members in Northern California for more than 40 years. Over that time, we’ve helped thousands of AAA members recover from home damage and disasters. To continue offering industry-leading insurance coverage, we must periodically evaluate our exposure to risk.

After careful review of our exposure, we continue to offer insurance throughout Northern California as long as our underwriting criteria are met. CSAA Insurance Group evaluates many sources of information to assess the condition of properties we insure, including third-party proprietary aerial imagery captured by fixed-wing aircraft and satellites.

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Out of respect for customer privacy, CSAA Insurance Group does not comment on specific situations or policies, but we will follow-up to better understand these concerns. Amy Bach, a consumer advocate with United Policyholders, has said that insurers are employing tools like drone monitoring to scout for danger.

“Insure tech tools are scaring insurers,” Bach said. “It’s just very easy now for them to put a customer in the discard pile based on this tech information that they’re using and buying. So far it’s not really helping the consumer.” It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Sveen and Smith both got new, cheaper policies through the military after weeks of looking. Nadeau’s roof images apparently persuaded AAA to restore his policy.

If you’re interested in reading more about these famous people and the articles written about them, you should check back in with the California Examiner.

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