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FAIR Plan asks court to force Calif. regulator to withdraw order

California's fire insurer of last resort has gone to court to compel the state's insurance regulator to pull back on a rule change that orders the program to offer comprehensive insurance policies.

The FAIR Plan on Dec. 13 filed a petition for a writ of mandate asking the Los Angeles Superior Court to rule that California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara must withdraw his decision, which requires the plan to offer a comprehensive homeowners insurance policy, known as an HO-3, in addition to its dwelling fire-only coverage by June 1, 2020. An HO-3 plan includes coverage for water damage and personal liability, as well as for fire.

The FAIR Plan in its writ said Lara's directive violated state law and would force the insurer out of compliance with its statutory mandate "to provide basic property insurance, serve as a stabilizing force in the insurance marketplace, and to maintain actuarially sound rates."

In a press release, the FAIR Plan said it filed the petition after trying to work with the state regulator to find an alternative to Lara's order that would "expand options for California homeowners seeking property insurance without unduly burdening them with additional risks and costs."

FAIR Plan President Anneliese Jivan a week earlier sent a letter to Lara asking him to abandon the change.

Established in 1968, the FAIR Plan is a pool of all insurers authorized to sell basic property insurance in California. The plan only provides fire insurance for homeowners who have either lost coverage or are unable to find insurance in the voluntary market.

Jivan called Lara's order, issued Nov. 14, "a misguided approach" that would have "unintended consequences that could ultimately hurt consumers" by leading to higher rates.