Marin fire officials welcome proposed state insurance rules

Marin fire officials praise expanded regulations for wildfire insurance aimed at improving safety standards and lowering the cost of coverage for homeowners and businesses.

The new regulations, released Friday by the State Insurance Department, incorporate the new framework “safer from forest fires”a list of expert-approved actions to help save lives and reduce risk to homeowners was rolled out last month.

The settlement would require insurance companies to consider all wildfire safety measures taken by a homeowner when pricing residential and commercial coverage. The regulations also aim to give consumers transparency about their “wildfire risk score” that insurance companies assign to properties, which can increase the price of insurance.

If approved, the settlement will come into effect this summer.

“With more and more Californians rolling up their sleeves and putting their hands in their pockets to protect their homes and businesses, insurance pricing needs to reflect their efforts,” Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said. “Holding insurance companies accountable for accurately assessing wildfire risk in the premiums they charge Californians will help save lives and reduce losses.”

Homeowners described costly efforts to protect their homes in meetings in California before the pandemic and in an online wildfire investigative hearing in October 2020. Currently, 17 insurance companies, or 40% of the market, started offering discounts, up from 7% of the market in 2019.

Homeowners rarely have access to their fire risk score or know how to improve it because businesses aren’t required to provide that information, according to the state. The new regulations aim to require people to be able to review their score and appeal the factors used to assess their property if they take further action to improve safety factors, for example through vegetation management.

“People are often driven by their wallets,” said Chief Jason Weber of the Marin County Fire Department. “If they get extended discounts for that, that certainly incentivizes them to do the work.”

Knowing the wildfire risk score can also help fire departments and residents better communicate about home fire prevention methods, Weber said.

“The new framework is identical to what we preach here in Marin County, and much of what the Marin Wildfire Protection Authority is working on,” he said. “When residents have access to grant funds coupled with insurance incentives, it really does become real money, but that’s also a common message. We don’t want anyone to feel overwhelmed with the work that needs to be done.

“This is the single most significant practical advance in wildfire safety that brings together all the pieces to help Californians maintain and obtain high-quality insurance at a reasonable cost,” said the Novato Fire Protection District Chief Bill Tyler. “It helps people regain control of their risk by getting insurance companies to recognize their efforts.”

“Now that the experts agree and the ‘safer from wildfires’ framework has been established, we need regulations to ensure that consistent and clear rewards will be in place to incentivize and achieve reduction. wildfire risk at the parcel and community level,” said Amy Bach, executive director of the San Francisco nonprofit United Policyholders.

Jamie Johansson, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, said: “By pricing insurance to recognize farmers’ wildfire safety efforts, these regulations will help insurance companies better support our agricultural sector, which is not only essential for our state but also for our entire country.”

Assemblyman Marc Levine, a Democrat from Marin County who is challenging Lara for commissioner, said the proposed regulations “are long overdue” but lack enforcement and transparency.

He said his bill, AB 1755, requires an insurance issue guarantee for residents who properly harden their homes against fire using proven standards, and aims to create a grant program directly to a homeowner. eligible to pay the cost of home curing.

“Landlords and tenants should benefit from these investments that they are making,” Levine said. “The proposed settlement does not provide the transparency needed to help people (understand) the risk patterns that impact homeowner premiums.”

The new regulations will be discussed at a public hearing on April 13 in Oakland.

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