The Boden family in Estacada lost one of their 2 homes in the Riverside Fire, but now no water, September 21, 2020 (COINS)
PORTLAND, Ore (COIN) — The Oregon Senate passed a law Tuesday making sure insurers can’t use statewide wildfire risk maps as a basis for canceling or refusing to renew policies, or for increasing premiums.
Senate Bill 82 also requires insurers to develop underwriting guidelines and rate plans related to forest fire risk mitigation and allow their insured clients at least 2 years to repair, rebuild, or replace property damaged or lost as a result of a fire. when the governor invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act.
In Oregon, homeowners have reported insurance companies refusing to renew their policies because of their property’s fire risk.
The state’s Division of Financial Services assured Oregonians in August 2022 that insurers have no plans to use state-produced fire risk maps in their decisions about whether to increase premiums or drop customers.
However, many still fear that this could happen.
The map serves as a visual representation of wildfire risk for all 1.8 million Oregon tax lots. It was originally released in June 2022, but the country has canceled it to get more community input before releasing the updated version.
According to Jason Horton, public information officer for the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation, each insurer has its own underwriting practices and risk tolerances that must be implemented uniformly statewide.
Despite assurances that insurers do not use the map, lawmakers said SB 82 will make it clear that they may not cancel policies or increase premiums for homeowners based on a statewide fire risk map.
“The principle we emphasize here is that property owners who have taken all reasonable steps to protect their homes from fires should have access to affordable and adequate insurance. We are entering a new era of wildfire danger that is asking governments and the insurance industry to work together on behalf of responsible citizens doing their best to protect their homes and the environment,” said Senator Golden.
Golden also said the law would increase transparency about policy renewals and premium decisions related to wildfires by requiring insurers to tell homeowners how they can lower their premiums through hardening of the house or other fire mitigation.
The bill passed the Senate Tuesday by a 25-4 vote.
Senator Art Robinson, R-Cave Junction, was one of the senators who opposed it.
In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Robinson said he was disappointed SB 82 did not fix some of the problems he believed were created by Senate Bill 762, a bill passed in 2021 that provided more than $220 million to improve fire preparedness.
He said this bill did not make the improvements he had hoped for.
“This is actually more burdensome landowners. Also, SB 82 assumes that private businesses will look at maps and data and then not make decisions based on those maps and data,” said Robinson.
He said he supported Senate Bill 247, which repealed SB 762 entirely and which he said Golden did not convene.
SB 82 has now moved to the DPR. It will have its first reading in the House on Wednesday.