Thursday, January 15, 2009

Insurance companies: part of the solution?

We have wished for a long time that insurance companies would be smart enough to find ways to encourage homeowners to build in fire-safe areas, and to base their premiums in part on the amount of defensible space and the type of construction materials used on the structure.

The Montana legislature is considering 30 bills related to wildland fire. One of them encourages insurance companies to offer discounts to fire-wise homeowners, but numerous insurance companies are whining.

Here is an excerpt from helenair.com:
Spending to stomp out wild fires could be reduced by training and rewarding homeowners to practice fire-safety defense, lawmakers said Wednesday as they presented several bills intended to cut costs.

The bills could force insurers to offer discounts to homeowners living in the wildland-urban interface who take fire precautions, and compel insurers to educate and inspect for preparedness.

Republican Sen. Rick Laible of Darby, a sponsor of two of the bills, said offering discounts on insurance premiums would reward homeowners for being fire-wise.

"You want to change people’s behavior, then give them an incentive," Laible said.

Good fire-safety practices typically include things like clearing brush or using flame-retardant building materials.

Numerous insurers voiced their opposition to the bills during the hearing.

"We want to be part of the solution, but we don’t think it’s fair or correct to tell us to write inaccurate premiums to cover the risk," said Bruce Spencer, spokesman for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

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