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Fire fighters work to extinguish a fire on Via El Estribo during the Canyon Two Fire in Anaheim, California, on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Fire fighters work to extinguish a fire on Via El Estribo during the Canyon Two Fire in Anaheim, California, on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

State Farm is again seeking to raise California homeowners’ insurance premiums — this time by an average 30%.

The insurance giant, the largest provider in the state, is asking regulators to approve what would appear to be its steepest-ever rate hike in California, affecting more than 1.2 million homeowners. The request comes just months after the company won approval to raise rates by 7% and 20% earlier this year.

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State Farm says the rate hike is necessary to shore up its financial situation following billions of dollars in losses caused by destructive wildfires and other catastrophic weather events. The company is asking permission to raise premiums as soon as the beginning of next year, though it could take longer to secure approval.

Under the current proposal, nearly all impacted policyholders would see their premiums go up between 25% and 35%. State Farm’s proposed rate increase would boost premiums by hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, depending on the price of a homeowner’s current coverage.

State Farm insures roughly one in five homes statewide.

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Consumer advocates called on the California Department of Insurance to closely scrutinize the evidence State Farm is providing to support the request before deciding whether to approve it.

“A 30% increase is going to be a massive blow to homeowners’ pocketbooks,” said Consumer Watchdog Executive Director Carmen Balber.

In addition to raising homeowner premiums, the company last week asked the California Department of Insurance for permission to raise rates by 52% for renters and 36% for condo owners.

“State Farm General is working toward its long-term sustainability in California,” the company said in a statement to news organizations. “Rate changes are driven by increased costs and risk.”

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California’s insurance rates are tightly regulated and, as a result, far lower than in many other states. The insurance industry, citing a series of destructive wildfire seasons and rising building costs, argues the rules have become untenable.

In recent years, providers, including State Farm, have ended coverage for hundreds of thousands of policyholders in fire-prone areas, even as regulators approved new rate hikes. Homeowners unable to find traditional policies have been left to buy into the exorbitantly expensive FAIR Plan, the state’s insurer of last resort.

State Farm, along with other large insurers, including Allstate, have even anywhere in California. It was unclear whether State Farm would restart writing policies if it wins approval on the rate hikes.

In its latest rate filings, State Farm has asked the insurance department to grant a “variance” to raise premiums higher than usual due to the company’s uncertain financial outlook. State Farm would need to prove the increases are warranted.

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Illinois-based State Farm reported net losses of more than $6 billion in both 2022 and 2023. The losses came amid a “significant increase in homeowners incurred catastrophe claims,” according to financial results the company released in February.

“State Farm General’s latest rate filings raise serious questions about its financial condition,” Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said in a statement. “We will use all the Department’s investigatory tools to get to the bottom of State Farm’s financial situation. We take this process seriously.”

As the insurance agency begins reviewing the proposal, it will also start accepting potential challenges from consumer groups or others.

Such a challenge would trigger mandatory public hearings on the requested increase, a process that would likely take months. Alternatively, the insurer, State Farm, the insurance department and any group submitting an appeal could work to reach a deal on a rate hike.

In an attempt to stabilize California’s faltering home insurance market, state insurance regulators are also that would allow providers to raise rates based on the growing threat of climate change — long an industry demand — in exchange for expanding coverage in parts of the state with the greatest wildfire risk.

The insurance department aims to finalize those new regulations by the end of the year.

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