Consumer Watchdog wants mandatory coverage for wildfire-safe homes

Executive director says this will incentivize homeowners to "do the right thing"

Consumer Watchdog wants mandatory coverage for wildfire-safe homes


By Mika Pangilinan

A consumer advocacy group in California is pushing for reforms that would require insurance companies to provide coverage to homeowners who have taken steps to mitigate wildfire risks to their properties.

In comments made before the Little Hoover Commission on Thursday, Consumer Watchdog executive director Carmen Balber said “homeowners who do the right thing” by adhering to California’s wildfire mitigation guidelines deserve the assurance of being able to secure insurance coverage.

Balber told the independent state oversight agency that mandating coverage would help incentivize homeowners to follow mitigation steps such as home-hardening and defensible space measures.

It will also have the added bonus of “depopulating the FAIR Plan to help stabilize the finances of the state’s insurer of last resort,” she added.

Further in her testimony, Balber criticized the effectiveness of a recent deal announced by California insurance commissioner Ricard Lara.

The deal was introduced as a way to expand coverage in wildfire-prone areas, but Balber said Consumer Watchdog has obtained documents indicating that this plan will not require insurers to offer coverage to single new homeowners.

“Insurers could instead meet their commitment by offering bare-bones FAIR Plan-equivalent policies, leaving consumers no better off than they are today,” she said.

Balber was one of four people to testify at the Little Hoover Commission’s hearing on California’s home insurance market.

Prior to the hearing, State Farm announced its decision to pull out of 72,000 California insurance policies. It cited inflation, exposure to natural disasters, increasing reinsurance costs, and outdated regulatory frameworks as the reason behind the move.

Several insurers have chosen to limit their exposure in California, with major industry players like Allstate and Farmers making similar announcements in the past year. 

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