California's insurance crisis resulting in canceled policies, increased rates. Here's what to know

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Friday, March 15, 2024
Homeowners, drivers contend with California's insurance crisis
Amid an ongoing insurance crisis in California, many customers are being dropped by their insurance companies or find themselves paying higher rates.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Amid an ongoing insurance crisis in California, many customers are being dropped by their insurance companies.

And among those who can get insured, including homeowners and drivers, the coverage is likely to cost more.

"I contacted nine insurance companies and none of them wanted to take us. None of them," says customer Steve Besbeck.

Besbeck says after 15 years his former insurance company dropped him. So he had to go with the California FAIR plan for fire coverage. The FAIR plan is for California homeowners unable to find insurance in the traditional marketplace.

Besbeck still had to get a separate policy for other home risks. "And the premium increased about 30% year over year with FAIR plan so it's been very expensive," he said.

Insurance policy costs have gone up steadily every year, from just over $1,000 in 2015 to almost $1,500 in 2021.

"I think the home insurance industry is abandoning Californians who have diligently paid their premiums for decades," said Carmen Balber with Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy group.

More and more Californians are finding it difficult, or even impossible, to keep their homes insured amid skyrocketing rates and policies being canceled by insurance companies.

According to insurance agent Rick Dinger, finding polices for his clients is nearly impossible.

"Ninety percent of our job is talking people off the ledge and explaining to them that it's not them, everyone is going through the same situation right now," said Dinger. "It's very few, and the rest we say 'I'm sorry we can't help you.' Or the rates are so outrageous they get upset and don't call back."

Experts say there are things you can do so your insurer is less likely to drop you. One thing is to make sure you have enough coverage to rebuild.

"Sometimes construction costs are not equal to fair market value. They are higher and so it really just depends, but you do want to pay special attention to what those costs are going to be and make sure that your insurance coverage matches that," said Omar Ochoa, an attorney and Insurance expert.

Higher insurance costs are not just hitting customers with big increases in homeowners polices, but also with auto policies. Besbeck says he's been struggling with both. When it comes to car insurance, he's driving less but paying more.

"I drove less than 4,000 miles last year on each of our cars. We have two cars and insurance went up this year like 20%, something like that, for nothing," said Besbeck.

California regulates insurance companies and their rate increases, so a number of insurance companies have simply pulled out of the state.

It's one reason it's getting harder to find a policy. Allstate stopped issuing homeowners insurance policies to new customers in California in 2022, and stopped directly selling new auto insurance policies in the state. The company decided to return but only after regulators agreed to let it raise auto insurance rates by an average of 30%.

Allstate always offered auto insurance policies to new customers through agents.

"Just to be clear, that Allstate increase, that 30% increase, was an auto insurance increase, not a home increase," Balber said. "But we're absolutely seeing insurance companies holding California hostage for deregulation that they're trying to get out of the Department of Insurance."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that while Allsate temporarily stopped selling new auto insurance policies, the company continued to offer such policies through agents. A previous version also stated that Allstate stopped issuing homeowners insurance policies to new customers in California last year. That has since been updated.