New California rules aim to lower property insurance rates

SACRAMENTO — California's insurance commissioner announced new rules on Friday aimed at lowering premiums for people who make improvements to their property to resist wildfires.

Ricardo Lara said the new rules will require insurance companies to factor property owners' improvements into the pricing of residential and commercial coverage. He said the new rules could take effect this summer.

Friday's announcement follows last week's news that the state is setting new insurance standards. Those new standards include a fire-resistant roof, at least 5 feet (1.5 meters) of defensible space around a home, a clearly defined evacuation route in a neighborhood and removal of vegetation overgrowth.

“With more Californians rolling up their sleeves and reaching into their own pockets to protect their homes and businesses, insurance pricing must reflect their efforts," Lara said in a news release announcing the regulations.

Mark Sektnan, vice president of state government relations for the American Property Insurance Association, said the association is still reviewing the proposed regulations. He said insurers support the use of science-based mitigation standards.

“It is more vital than ever for consumers to mitigate their properties and financially prepare for wildfires, especially given the rebuilding delays and inflationary cost pressures that are forecasted to continue,” he said.

State Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, has been involved in legislation to streamline insurance processes and strengthen construction standards related to wildfires.

“I commend Commissioner Lara for taking this important step to accomplish the dual goals of reducing wildfire risk and enhancing access to affordable insurance coverage,” Dodd said in a statement. “This is important for my constituents and communities around the state. It’s also something I’ve discussed with the commissioner. Today’s action is another piece of the puzzle as we build a safer and more resilient California.”