After the California wildfires of in 2017 and 2018, state insurers were hit with record-breaking losses of over $25 billion. In response, on November 14th, 2019, California Department of Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara ordered the FAIR Plan Association, a state-established “insurer of last resort” ran by a pool of private carriers, to offer comprehensive homeowners insurance, adding traditional perils like water damage, theft, and personal liability to their fire coverage. A new report from CoreLogic analyzes the events leading up to this development, and how state insurers responding.
First, CoreLogic notes that many traditional carriers reduced or cancelled their insurance coverage in high-risk wildfire zones. In response, the Wildfire Safety and Recovery Act (CA SB-824) of 2019 mandated a one-year moratorium on non-renewal of homeowners insurance for at least 800,000 homes in ZIP codes near recent wildfire disasters
"The moratorium draws parallels to the aftermath of 1992 Hurricane Andrew, where property and casualty insurers in Florida were faced with over $16 billion in losses," CoreLogic said. "In 1993, the Department of Insurance imposed a moratorium on non-renewals of residential property coverages in Florida for 90 days."
In October 2018, the Florida Insurance Commissioner issued a 90-day moratorium for carriers in counties impacted by Hurricane Michael. California’s lengthy one-year moratorium is proving a challenge for state insurers as they work to control losses amidst many years of consistent devastating wildfire events.
The California Insurance Commissioner and state lawmakers also introduced Assembly Bill 2367, named “Renew California”. The bill would create a Wildfire Resilience Task Force, which would include the Insurance Commissioner, the Director of the Office of Emergency Services, and the State Fire Marshal, to establish minimum standards for fire-hardened homes and communities. The bill would also require admitted property insurers in the state to write or renew policies when the applicant or insured owns a residence with an estimated replacement cost consistent with the insurer’s underwriting guidelines and the residence and community meet the minimum standards for fire-hardening.