Homeowner insurance companies leaving states like California and Florida represent a troubling trend that could impact Washington.
David Fadduol, attorney with Ruiz and Smart in Seattle, said there’s anecdotal evidence that people aren’t seeing their policies renewed because of wildfire risk in parts of the state. But it’s unclear how widespread this issue is. Fadduol says the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner, or OIC, does not track nonrenewals in the state.
“Without knowing the extent of the problem, where the problem is and how it might affect us in the future if there was a wildfire, you can’t really determine what we should be doing about it, if anything at all,” Fadduol said.
Fadduol notes the OIC conducted a study on this in 2019 but hasn’t made that study public.
He added it’s unclear how insurance companies make underwriting decisions and whether they do it based on an entire community’s risk for disasters like wildfire or if it happens on a house-by-house basis.
“There’s a lot of things that folks can do to protect their homes against wildfires and an insurance company using those broad strokes isn’t taking those into account,” he explained.
Fadduol said there are steps state lawmakers can take to protect homeowners. For instance, California passed a law in 2021 that requires insurers to recognize and reward people who adopt fire safety measures. There are other steps they could take as well.
“The OIC could require insurance companies to disclose the basis for nonrenewals on a property-by-property basis and then it would be pretty easy to look at those properties and determine was this a legitimate reason to not renew this policy?” he said.
The 2024 legislative session is scheduled to begin on January 8th.
Featured image: Wildfires are a growing risk for homeowners in Washington state. (klim7/Adobe Stock)