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Calif. regulator orders operational revision for FAIR Plan

The California Department of Insurance has revised the plan of operation for the state's fire insurer of last resort after it missed a deadline to file its own proposal.

The move comes in the wake of the FAIR Plan filing a lawsuit against the regulator over Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara's November order to add a comprehensive HO-3 homeowners policy in addition to its dwelling-only fire insurance.

The FAIR Plan, established in 1968, is a pool of all insurers that are allowed 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.

The new plan of operation, which was mandated by Lara on Dec. 19, requires the FAIR Plan to file a rate application for the HO-3 coverage option only for review and approval by the insurance department. The FAIR Plan may also file any rate or rule application needed to implement the increased $3 million maximum limits of liability, which were also part of Lara's original order.

Lara put the revisions in place after the FAIR Plan failed to submit its plan within 30 days of the commissioner's order, as required by state law. The FAIR Plan instead filed a petition for a writ of mandate asking a state court to rule that Lara must reverse his original order.

In a statement, Lara said he issued the new plan to "we are moving forward as required by law to protect homeowners throughout the state." He said the FAIR plan has become the "only permanent option" for some state residents who have been "abandoned by the private insurance market."

"This plan will provide homeowners with the option of basic coverage they deserve in order to feel safe and protect our local economies from the state's growing insurance availability crisis," Lara added.