A bill aimed at consumer insurance protections and Oregon’s wildfire risk map passed the Oregon House of Representatives on Tuesday. It now heads to Gov. Kotek’s desk to be signed into law.
Senate Bill 82 would restrict how insurance companies can use wildfire risk maps. It’s in part a response to last summer’s controversial map, which outlined wildfire risk at the property ownership level across the state.
Oregon has seen $3 billion of property loss this decade due to wildfire, said Rep. Pam Marsh (D-Ashland).
“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.”
SB82 states that insurance companies cannot use any state wildfire risk map as a basis for increasing a premium, canceling or denying to renew a homeowner insurance policy.
Oregon’s wildfire risk map that was released last year was met with intense criticism over how it might affect homeowners’ insurance rates. Marsh said this new bill is partially an effort to address that critique.
“That was an issue that came up big time last summer. We want to make it clear that that’s simply not allowed. We don’t think insurance companies are doing it anyway, by the way. But now it’ll be in statute that they’re not allowed to do it,” she said.
The bill also says that if an insurer decides to cancel or not renew a homeowner’s policy because of wildfire risk, they have to tell the homeowner why.
Marsh said this part of the bill is about transparency for consumers from insurance companies.
“They also need to tell you if there are mitigation actions that you could take to your property, for example, clearing out defensible space that is hovering around your home that would make you more insurable. So just understanding those notifications that we get from insurance companies is a really important big part of this,” she said.
The bill would also require insurance companies to consider fire risk mitigation measures as they calculate rates and make underwriting decisions.
In addition, SB82 expands state statute to allow wildfire survivors up to 36 months to rebuild their home after a fire, rather than relying on a declaration of a state emergency to allow them additional rebuilding time.
Marsh said she was “quite confident” that Kotek will sign SB82 into law.
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 80 is currently in a legislative committee and would revise and update the state’s wildfire risk map.