Fire insurance renewal mandate worries insurers, experts

More than half of the most destructive wildfires in state history have happened in the past five years. (Wikimedia Commons image)

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara’s recent decision to put a one-year moratorium on insurance companies refusing to renew policies on homes in areas adjacent to recent devastating wildfires has garnered widely mixed reaction.

Lara’s decision ensures roughly 800,000 homeowners can have policies renewed. It’s allowed under Senate Bill 824, which Lara shepherded to passage in 2018 while a state senator representing Bell Gardens. An estimated 350,000 policies had not been renewed in California since the beginning of 2015.

“This wildfire insurance crisis has been years in the making, but it is an emergency we must deal with now if we are going to keep the California dream of homeownership from becoming the California nightmare,” Lara said in a statement.

Lara has won praise from consumer advocates who say insurers are too quick to cancel policies held by homeowners who have dutifully paid premiums for years without ever filing claims. He’s also gotten kudos for his November decision to expand the state-overseen FAIR program, which is run by a pool of insurers and provides bare-bones insurance to homeowners otherwise unable to get policies. Beginning in April, FAIR is supposed to offer plans that cover $3 million in damages, up from the present $1.5 million.

But an analysis by The New York Times suggests that Lara has misjudged the risk that insurers face in an era of hotter, drier weather and that the industry could be on the road to ruin. It noted that the $20 billion that insurers offering policies in the state lost because of devastating wildfires in 2017 and 2018 “wiped out a full quarter-century of the industry’s profits” from California operations, according to the Milliman consulting firm.

Lara told the Times that all he was doing was “hitting the pause button on non-renewals” to stabilize the home insurance market and let insurers and regulators catch their breath and carefully evaluate future steps.

Parallels seen to Hurricane Andrew, Northridge earthquake

But Milliman actuary Eric Xu compared the massive losses suffered by insurers since 2017 to the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in Florida in 1992, when insurers lost a similar amount and about a dozen went bankrupt.

Karl Susman, owner of a Los Angeles-based insurance agency, told the Associated Press that the present crisis reminded him of the fallout from the Northridge earthquake in 1994, which led many insurers to either stop renewing earthquake insurance policies or to get out of the field entirely. He questioned whether the historic model of home insurance was “sustainable” in California, given fire risks. 

Home insurers in the state requested about 80 rate hikes in 2018, far more than the norm. But the hikes are generally rejected unless it can be established that they are needed because of demonstrated risk – not the higher risks that insurance actuaries expect because of a hotter climate.

“That works, until it doesn’t,” Rex Frazier, president of the Personal Insurance Federation of California, an insurers’ trade association, told the New York Times. He questioned how the industry could survive unless it was allowed to factor in future risks.

Insurers have grumbled but otherwise taken no formal steps to challenge Lara’s moratorium on non-renewals, which is in effect until Dec. 5, 2020. 

But the insurance companies which pool to provide the FAIR “insurance of last resort” program are openly defying Lara. FAIR officials were supposed to provide an operational plan by Dec. 14 of how they would expand the program and increase coverage limits, as the insurance commissioner had ordered. Instead, they sued Lara just before the deadline, saying he had grossly overstepped his authority.

3 comments

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  1. Phil Hood
    Phil Hood 2 January, 2020, 10:03

    There is no point in an insurance market in which companies and individuals cannot protect themselves from big risks. Increasing premiums are information that consumers need to make decisions. Lliving in high-fire areas is dangerous. The government can’t order insurance companies to take on risks that no sane individual would take on. If it’s too risky to build in the hills above Santa Barbara and Ventura, then people need to stop doing it. That’s the solution, not punishing insurance companies.

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  2. edryan221
    edryan221 9 January, 2020, 02:43

    Emporium Productions is preparing to begin shooting the LA Political Documentary of an ex-lawyer recovered addict Ed Ryan as he begins his runs for Mayor of LA,. Ryan was incarcerated 6 times in three years for fighting crime buster vigilantes who harassed and did violence to him. Ryan hopes the Documentary be to fully expose the LAPD Crime buster Vigilante. Ryan wants Attorney General Becerra to answer one question, ” why no full investigation of the LAPD Crime buster Vigilante scandal”. The Answer, to cover-up the corruption political allies like of LA City Attorney Feuer, a man who also wants to be Mayor of LA. But, can Feuer be honest. corruption is in the air, as his Deputy, assistant City Attorney Topanga Neighborhood Prosecutor Karine Philips keeps who job after she is reported to be a vigilante group member. The Reason Becerra will not order an investigation is because so much more real corruption would be exposed. For instance, why did Philips failed to follow Legal ethics and disclose to Van Nuys Judge Harmon that SLO Dines, herself ,and the two prosecution witnesses. On Page 28 of the Complaint to Becerra’s office is a SLO Dines Facebook Posting and when that happens vigilante justice happens, Besides using all vigilantes for prosecution witnesses , A Becerra investigation would probably find that Philips may have used corrupt methods to get the case in front of a judge who is very kind to the crime buster vigilante team of SLO Dines and Attorney Phillips. Becerra might change his mind and investigate faster if the LA Times didn’t use disinformation to confuse the issue. For example why would the LA Times not just report the truth about Becerra in October, 2019. by Then Becerra had the Crime buster Complaint for 18 months and did no investigation. So why does LA Times Reporter the issue saying his office won’t confirm or deny the investigation. Point is there was no investigation, but the “confirm/deny” standard is a great way to hide Becerra’s refusal to investigate a complaint that makes the LAPD and LA City Attorney Feuer look corrupt. Also a Becerra Investigation would have to investigate the 12 other LAPD Crime buster Facebook Groups in LA, City Attorney Feuer has Neighborhood Prosecutors all over LA.. Feuer needs to come clean, to stop corrupting the LA court system. Speaking of corruption, Judge Harmon is a LA Superior court judge and cases are assigned per a rotation system that shows a glitch if a corrupt prosecutor cuts the rotation to make that happen. Emporium Productions wants exciting conflict in the documentary, so Emporium is doing some up front work to investigate get Filming permission. For example, when Ryan surrenders on his probation warrant, he may be jailed. Then what, who knows, tune in and find out. As of now a Vimeo, Networking Platform will host bi-weekly, but if the Ryan campaign for Mayor of LA gets interesting, Net–Flix could exercise an option. LA Mayor Garcetti was the focus of Ed Ryan’s sarcasm in April of 2015 when Ryan, also an Artist, was interviewed by a Hollywood Arts reporter as he created ang displayed Street art on The Fence of the Barnsdall Art Park in East Hollywood, that faces Hollywood Blvd
    It is Ironic that Becerra’s not investigating the complaint may protect City Attorney Feuer from being officially labeled corrupt. That being so, Feuer can run for Mayor and still have a chance of being elected. However. Feuer chances to win drop if Ryan is in the Race and constantly spelling out exact details of potential Feuer Corruption ect. But things could work out nicely if Becerra were to now flip and do the right thing and investigate. The findings of the investigation would provide Ryan with certified proof needed for him to finally him to gain a decent settlement from LA via Feuer’s office. Ryan may be hard-pressed not to take a decent LA settlement package for the dames of 14 months wrongful incarceration ect.

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  3. edryan221
    edryan221 11 January, 2020, 17:51

    Letter to Los Angeles City Attorney Feuer on the Submit Box at LA City Attorney Web Page

    1/10/20 LA City Attorney Web Page issue submission.
    To: Attorney Mike Feuer, Los Angeles City Attorney.
    From: Ed Ryan, Candidate for Mayor LA 2022:
    I’m Ed Ryan, and I’m Running for Mayor of LA in 2022. “The Committee to Elect Ed Ryan Mayor of LA” is being organized and our approach is 100 percent “Anti-corruption Transparency” thus, no donations at all. However is a documentary an “In Kind” donation. I am allowing Emporium Productions to film a Documentary by following my “Outsider” bid for the 2022 LA Mayor seat. Segments of the documentary will be posted on a Vimieo channel every 2 weeks. It will be close to real time. It should be worth watching as I plan to get down and dirty. First order of business is stopping by your office again, like I did in January 2018, only to get arrested for trespassing. I did 27 days in County for that, and now I know I was right, your office was involved with the LAPD Vigilantes.
    LA City Hall Corruption is intense with the FBI investigating Mayor Garcetti and the other ‘Pay for Play” players in LA City Hall. In 2016 your office did “Pay for Play” undercover investigation of Hollywood Acting workshops, but how come you let the LA Voters down by never investigated the ‘Pay for Play” LA City Hall Real-Estate Development Deals. Certainly you saw the corruption. It was right there in LA City Hall , and those Luxury Housing Development deals came to your office for review. In fact, your office had early warning of such corruption but did nothing ever. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe it was you who dropped the Dime bringing the in FBI. By the way, please make sure those Feds are doing their job correctly. It’s weird in LA how investigations get set aside. Right now in Sacramento Atty. Gen Becerra has spent 2 years not investigating the 8/1/18 WRAP complaint that exposed just a small part of the LAPD Crime buster Vigilante Anti-Homeless Hate Crime Scandal. Did you know 43 percent of LA homeless are black, thus Crime buster Vigilante are. Doing ‘Racist’ Crime. To what extent we do not know because California Attorney General is evidently OK with Racist Hate crimes being done onto a mostly Black LA homeless population. Now that I’m running for Mayor of LA, I’m hoping My standing as a progressive democrat can convinced Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker and Liz warren to take a close look at the scandal when the come to LA foe the Presidential Primary in March. I’m going to do it while being filmed for the documentary. I’m going demand it be investigated. If not Becerra, then maybe by the US Justice Department when Trump is finally gone. Really, I should think you as LA City Attorney should either do an investigation, or call Becerra and ask him what is the problem. Why no LAPD Crimebuster vigilante Investigation. I suppose your office might have a conflict since I’ve read published reports that your Deputy Karine Philips, the Topanga Neighborhood Prosecutor is a Crimebuster Group member. According to reports she did a good job for LAPD SLO Dinse,the LAPD Cop that runs the Topanga Crimebuster Vigilante group. Other LAPD members include, 2 LAPD Deputy Chiefs and 13 other LAPD Officers , including a LAPD Watch Commander and the present day Captain of the Topanga LAPD station. Yes, Prosecutor Philips really worked it prosecuting mentally ill Perelman for littering. I read the transcript in that case and Philips never disclosed to the Court that She, SlO Dinse and two civilian witnesses all were members of the LAPD Crimebuster Vigilante group. She Prosecuted Perelman in front of Judge Harmmon Dept 113, Van Nuys Court. Could you talk with her confirm the exact rout the Perelman littering case took to get before being assigned to Hammon, the Ex DA. No Hanky Panky I trust. Ah LA, so much corruption, so little time. I can be reached at:
    (413 863-5592) or [email protected]
    My Twitter Handle: LAmayorRYAN2022
    Sincerely,
    Ed Ryan, Mayor of LA, 2022

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Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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