PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Oregon Senate passed a bill Tuesday that ensures insurance companies cannot use the statewide wildfire risk map as a basis for canceling or refusing to renew policies, or for increasing premiums. 

Senate Bill 82 also requires insurance companies to make their underwriting guidelines and rate plans related to wildfire risk mitigation and to allow their insured clients at least 2 years to repair, rebuild or replace property that was damaged or lost as a result of a wildfire that occurred when the governor invokes the Emergency Conflagration Act

In Oregon, homeowners have reported insurance companies refusing to renew their policy due to their property’s risk of wildfire. 

The state’s Division of Financial Services reassured Oregonians in August 2022 that insurance companies had no plans to use the state-created wildfire risk map in their decisions on whether to increase premiums or drop customers. 

However, many still feared this could be the case.

The map serves as a visual representation of what the wildfire risk is for all of Oregon’s 1.8 million tax lots. It was originally released in June 2022, but the state has since rescinded it to get more community input before issuing an updated version. 

According to Jason Horton, public information officer for Oregon’s Division of Financial Regulation, each insurance company has its own underwriting practices and risk tolerances that it must apply uniformly across the state. 

Despite the assurance that insurance companies are not using the map, lawmakers say SB 82 would make it clear that they may not cancel policies or increase premiums for homeowners based on the statewide wildfire risk map. 

“The principle we’re pushing for here is that property owners who’ve taken all reasonable measures to protect their homes from wildfire should have access to affordable and adequate insurance. We’re entering a new era of wildfire danger that calls on the government and the insurance industry to cooperate on behalf of responsible residents who are doing their best to protect their homes and neighborhoods,” said Senator Golden.

Golden also said the law will improve transparency on policy renewals and premium decisions related to wildfires by requiring insurers to tell homeowners how they can lower their premiums through home hardening or other wildfire mitigation. 

The bill passed the Senate Tuesday with a vote of 25-4. 

Sen. Art Robinson, R-Cave Junction, was one of the senators who voted against it. 

In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Robinson said he was disappointed SB 82 did not fix some of the problems that he believes were created by Senate Bill 762, the bill passed in 2021 that provided more than $220 million for improving wildfire preparedness. 

He said this bill does not make the improvements he was hoping for. 

“It actually places more burdens on land owners. Also, SB 82 assumes that private businesses will look at maps and data and then not make decisions based upon those maps and data,” Robinson said. 

He said he supports Senate Bill 247, which repeals SB 762 entirely and which he said Golden did not hold a hearing for. 

SB 82 now moves onto the House. It will have its first reading in the House on Wednesday.