In response to the rising cost and risk of California wildfires, some insurance companies are requiring property owners in high-hazard areas to perform extensive, often expensive, mitigation work to keep their policies.

In some cases, they are demanding more than what local and state fire departments recommend.

On May 14, Katharine Menzies of Mill Valley got a letter from The Hartford threatening her with “cancellation or nonrenewal” if she didn’t “completely remove all trees and bushes within five (feet) of the front sides, or rear of the dwelling,” remove plants touching her home; cut annual grasses to a maximum of 4 inches; remove all dead or dry vegetation within 30 feet of all structures and remove anything stored underneath decks or porches.

Menzies said she completed the work and sent photos to prove it, but on June 14 received a letter from Hartford saying the work was incomplete and “does not meet our qualifications to continue coverage.” It said it would consider “any proof of clearance provided” up until the nonrenewal date.

Menzies called the Mill Valley Fire Department to inspect her property. In a letter dated July 11, it said her property complied with “all vegetation management ordinances” for 2019 and called it a “model for defensible space best practices for other homes to use.”