On Tuesday(April 25), the Oregon House of Representatives advanced a measure to strengthen safeguards for insurance policyholders and update the state’s wildfire risk map. The bill is going to Governor Kotek’s office to be signed into law.
Insurance firms’ use of wildfire risk maps would be limited under Senate Bill 82. It’s partly a reaction to a contentious graphic from last summer that showed wildfire danger throughout the state by individual property.
According to Representative Pam Marsh (D-Ashland), wildfires in Oregon have caused $3 billion in damage over the last decade.
“What that means is that insurance companies are increasingly looking at their portfolios and evaluating risk. And consumers are increasingly getting notifications that their canceled policies won’t be renewed, or that the policy price has gone up, or that they’re not insurable,” she said.
“So we want to protect consumers during this period, recognizing that insurance companies are going to make the decisions that they’re going to make based on their financial needs.”
Insurance firms cannot increase premiums, terminate policies, or refuse to renew policies based on any state wildfire risk map, per SB82. The wildfire risk map for Oregon issued last year was received with strong opposition from residents concerned about rising premiums. Marsh said that the new legislation aims to address that criticism.
Last summer, the topic came up often. We must stress how strictly that is forbidden. Insurance firms aren’t likely to engage in this practice. Now it’s written into law that they can’t,” she said. In addition, the measure mandates that insurers provide written notice to policyholders when they refuse to renew or cancel coverage for a residence due to increased wildfire risk.
Marsh said this law section would increase insurance firms’ openness to their customers. They should also let you know whether there is anything you can do to your property to lower your premiums, such as clearing away defensible areas around your house.
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She emphasized the significance of making sense of the insurance company’s communications. Insurance firms must factor fire risk reduction measures into the premium pricing and policy underwriting under the proposed legislation.
In addition, SB82 amends state law to provide those whose homes were destroyed in wildfires with up to 36 months to rebuild without needing a state of emergency to be declared. Marsh expressed a “quite confident” expectation that Kotek will approve SB82.
Senate Bill 80, which would modernize and improve the state’s wildfire risk map, is now being reviewed by a parliamentary committee.
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