The insurers behind California’s Fair Plan, the insurance market of last resort for homeowners, think it’s a bad idea to broaden the coverages available from the Fair Plan beyond basic dwelling fire insurance, an expansion being ordered by the state’s insurance regulator.
Citing a growing problem of insurers pulling back from the home insurance market due to wildfire losses, California Commissioner Ricardo Lara last week ordered the Fair Plan to begin offering a comprehensive homeowners (HO-3) coverage, in addition to its current dwelling fire-only coverage, by June 1, 2020. The comprehensive policy would include include traditional homeowner insurance features such as coverage for personal liability, water damage and theft.
But Fair Plan officials say the move is a “misguided approach” that would take it beyond its core mission and be costly and time-consuming to implement.
“The FAIR Plan was created to assure the availability of basic property insurance. The Commissioner’s call for the FAIR Plan to offer liability coverage and an HO-3 policy would have unintended consequences that could ultimately hurt consumers,” Fair Plan President Anneliese Jivan said in a prepared statement.
“Implementing such a fundamental change in our mission and operations would involve a massive scale up of personnel with expertise in different types of insurance. Not only would this take significant time and divert resources from core activities focused on improving service to existing and new FAIR Plan policyholders, but it will also result in increased operating costs that will be passed along in the form of higher rates for all policyholders.”
Jivan also suggested that having the Fair Plan offer the additional coverages is unnecessary because these coverages are “readily available in California from numerous companies.”
But the California Department of Insurance has said the growing lack of availability of homeowners and fire insurance has touched virtually every county in the state and threatens home values, real estate transactions, tax revenues, emergency services, and the integrity of California communities.
Lara said he has met with “with thousands of California homeowners across the state who are struggling to find coverage to protect their homes.”
Lara said the current crisis requires the FAIR Plan to provide a comprehensive option for those who have no other option for homeowners insurance.
Lara has also ordered the FAIR Plan to increase coverage limits on its current dwelling policies from $1.5 million to $3 million and allow for policyholders to pay monthly and by credit card.
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