By Allison Plette
SB 11 (Rubio), as amended June 28, 2021, expands sections 10091 and 10094 of the California Insurance Code covering the California FAIR Plan. The amendments remove exclusions for “farm risks” from the definition of “basic property insurance.” The new version of the code narrows the exclusion to “commercial agricultural commodities or livestock, or equipment used to cultivate or transport agricultural commodities or livestock.” (emphasis added). Though the bill continues to exclude “commercial agricultural commodities” (such as crops and livestock), it now covers basic property insurance for permanent structures on farms.
Established by statute (California Insurance Code sections 10091 et seq) in 1968, the California FAIR Plan was originally designed to offer coverage to California’s high-risk homeowners and renters who had trouble obtaining coverage through other insurers. However, with California wildfires growing longer and more intense, the number of non-renewals on residential properties has grown every year from 2015 to 2019. Under the previous versions of sections 10091 and 10094, only residential properties were afforded protection under the FAIR plan, subjecting farms, agriculture structures, and wineries to increasing non-renewal of commercial insurance.
In a July 23, 2021 press release, Commissioner Lara stated that the mandates under SB 11 will help “close the commercial insurance coverage gaps that are leaving many of [California’s] agribusinesses exposed to major losses.” However, note that the exclusion appears to remain for those property owners with perhaps even minor commercial agricultural enterprises. It is unclear how many are now protected with that broad remaining allowance for insurance cut-offs.
Governor Newsom signed SB 11 on July 23, 2021 (Chapter 128, Statutes of 2021).