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Firefighters wait for water as a home burns in the Running Springs community near San Bernardino, Calif., Tuesday Oct. 23, 2007.  (AP file photo/James Carbone)
Firefighters wait for water as a home burns in the Running Springs community near San Bernardino, Calif., Tuesday Oct. 23, 2007. (AP file photo/James Carbone)

San Bernardino County supervisors are asking the state to declare a statewide state of emergency as it’s becoming harder for homeowners to get affordable insurance in areas considered high-risk.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted June 25 to adopt a resolution that asks California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, Gov. Gavin ɫ̳om and the state Legislature to declare a state of emergency and to take action to strengthen and stabilize the homeowners and insurance marketplace.

“We’re trying to get the Legislature, the executive branch and the governor on board with the insurance commissioner to direct regulatory change,” said Supervisor Dawn Rowe, who introduced the resolution.

Rowe said she did so because county residents frequently complain about their ongoing lack of insurance options.

“San Bernardino has a lot of mountain and desert communities, and both communities are struggling to get homeowners insurance,” she said. “Buying a house and getting insurance is much more expensive and difficult if you live in an area considered to have a higher risk for fire and disaster.”

Frequent wildfires and earthquakes across the region, along with a blizzard in the San Bernardino mountains last year, are all likely factors that drive higher rates among insurers.

Last year, two of the state’s largest insurance carriers – which represented more than 27% of the state’s market – announced they would stop issuing new homeowners and commercial property insurance policies in California, according to Rowe.

Several others, representing more than an additional 36% of the market, also announced plans to limit the issue of new policies.

Insurance providers are leaving, Rowe said, largely because the state requires them to set rates based on an area’s history of losses for the previous 20 years.

Meanwhile, most states are shifting to a “catastrophic” model, which evaluates rates based on history of losses as well as future forecasts and the likelihood of fires, floods, and other natural disasters.

The state’s insurance commissioner, Lara, introduced earlier this year to let insurance companies use catastrophe modeling; however, those regulations won’t take effect until at least 2026.

Rowe and the rest of the county supervisors are calling for immediate action.

If the governor declares a state of emergency, insurance providers will not be allowed to drop current insurance policies.

Because providers are leaving the state, homeowners are often left with a single option for coverage: The California Fair Access to Insurance Requirements, or FAIR plan, which was established by a group of insurance companies to insure California homeowners who can’t find traditional coverage.

Brenda Meyer, owner of Cozy Cabins Realty near Lake Arrowhead, said the FAIR plan currently covers about 1 million homeowners.

The FAIR plan, which describes itself as a “temporary safety net” on its , was never meant to be the main insurer of so many people, Meyer said.

“The FAIR plan covers basic hazards,” she added, “but homeowners will need to get a wraparound policy that covers things like theft, liability and water damages.”

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