19 July 2023
An Oakley, California man was shocked when California State Automobile Association (CSAA) Insurance Group cancelled his homeowners policy due to drone photos of debris and other "hazardous conditions" in his backyard.
"Apparently they have some pictures, and they noticed clutter," said CJ Sveen, the homeowner, who never paid much attention to drones sometimes flying over his house–until now.
Sveen's property is not located in a fire zone, and he maintains he hasn't filed a claim in 15 years. Confident that no one from CSAA came to physically inspect his home, Sveen called for more information about the policy termination, and was allegedly told, "We sent a drone over."
CSAA also declined to show 7 On Your Side the images that cost Sveen his policy. So, the station flew its own drone to survey the property.
Sveen admitted his yard is cluttered, but only because he is a "tinkerer"—restoring a 1966 Chevy, changing his tires each season, installing solar panels, and other activities.
"It's not dangerous, and it's not neglected," he explained. "We are back here, and we are using these things."
But there was more bad news.
After complaining to the State Department of Insurance, the agency sided with CSAA. Putting salt in the wound, so to speak, CSAA replied: "While you may have had your insurance with the company for many years, paid your premiums and not filed claims, those factors are not considerations when evaluating property risk."
Sveen's multiple inquiries and bringing in 7 On Your Side as an advocate, unfortunately, did not have the effect of reinstating his homeowners insurance.
There is no State law that forbids anyone from taking aerial photos of your home—unless it's be proven to be an direct invasion of privacy, spying, or peeping. For their part, insurance companies are relying more and more on Google Earth 3-D and drones to assess home-insurance risks.