Insurance premiums on fire

One of four multi-million dollar oceanside homes, including the home of actress Suzanne Somers, destroyed in a fast-moving, wind-driven wildfire in January in Malibu, Calif.

TEXT OF STORY

SCOTT JAGOW: Out here in California, it's just so dry. Wildfires are huge threat all over the West and homeowners are facing big hikes in their insurance premiums. Here's Marketplace's Bob Moon with more:


BOB MOON: It's undeniable that more homes are being built in riskier areas.

[ HELICOPTER WARNING: "Mandatory evacuation is in effect, please leave now. . ." ]

The number of homes in wildfire red zones is up to 6 million in California alone.

Some analysts say Hurricane Katrina caused insurers to realize the risks they had put on their books. Candysse Miller heads the Insurance Information Network of California.

CANDYSSE MILLER: There have been dramatic disaster losses, and certainly we don't want to exacerbate that by letting wildfire conditions get out of control.

Miller argues the industry's just promoting common-sense precautions. Carmen Balber of The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights says some of them make sense, but others are unfair, such as demands to clear brush beyond property lines.

Add excessively high premiums, she says, and it suggests something else is going on.

CARMEN BALBER: We see, time and again, an attempt by the industry to cherry pick, or to choose only the most desirable customers — those who will never file a claim.

Balber says homeowners can often find a better rate by just shopping around.

In Los Angeles, I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.

TEXT OF STORY

SCOTT JAGOW: Out here in California, it's just so dry. Wildfires are huge threat all over the West and homeowners are facing big hikes in their insurance premiums. Here's Marketplace's Bob Moon with more:


BOB MOON: It's undeniable that more homes are being built in riskier areas.
[ HELICOPTER WARNING: "Mandatory evacuation is in effect, please leave now. . ." ]

The number of homes in wildfire red zones is up to 6 million in California alone.

Some analysts say Hurricane Katrina caused insurers to realize the risks they had put on their books. Candysse Miller heads the Insurance Information Network of California.

CANDYSSE MILLER: There have been dramatic disaster losses, and certainly we don't want to exacerbate that by letting wildfire conditions get out of control.

Miller argues the industry's just promoting common-sense precautions. Carmen Balber of The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights says some of them make sense, but others are unfair, such as demands to clear brush beyond property lines.

Add excessively high premiums, she says, and it suggests something else is going on.

CARMEN BALBER: We see, time and again, an attempt by the industry to cherry pick, or to choose only the most desirable customers — those who will never file a claim.

Balber says homeowners can often find a better rate by just shopping around.

In Los Angeles, I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.

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