October 2023 – Commercial Property Insurance – The Hidden Cost Driver behind Rate Hikes

COMMERCIAL PROPERTY owners throughout California are getting hit with significant insurance rate hikes and non-renewal notices as a confluence of factors reverberate through the market.

The commercial property insurance industry is struggling with years of losses after paying out billions of dollars annually for increasingly costly and numerous wildfire claims in California and other natural disasters around the country.
While massive costs dominate the conversation, there is another factor that is contributing just as much to rising insurer costs: The role of reinsurance.

Reinsurance explained

Just like you mitigate your risks by buying insurance, your insurance company does the same by purchasing reinsurance.
This coverage pays claims when they reach catastrophic levels or a certain threshold, like those from massive wildfires.
These arrangements call for the reinsurer to cover the cost of claims for a certain region or for a certain risk, like wildfires or hurricanes. Each reinsurance treaty is different and they are often tailor-written for individual insurance companies.

Without reinsurers taking on a good portion of catastrophic claims, insurance rates would be much higher than they are today. But that’s changing.
Reinsurers pay for a significant portion of any global catastrophe as they are the backstop for insurers around the world. And catastrophes have been growing in number and scope all over the planet.

During the first half of 2023, natural catastrophes caused $52 billion in insured damage globally, which is 18% higher than the average of $44 billion in the past 10 years and 39% higher than the 21st-century average of $38 billion, according to a report by Swiss Re.

The U.S. accounted for $34 billion of the world’s insured property losses in the first half. The nation also accounted for 13 of the 17 global natural catastrophe events that each caused more than $1 billion in insured losses, according to the report.

What reinsurers are doing

Raising rates – Reinsurance companies have been raising their rates significantly. A recent report on the trade news site Artemis.com said property catastrophe reinsurance rates had
seen a substantial average increase of approximately 30% during July 1 renewals.

Reconsidering where they provide coverage – Reinsurers have also started pulling back from covering properties in areas or regions that are at higher risk for natural disasters, particularly California and Florida, the latter due to increasingly costly hurricane damage and the former due to the increasing wildfire risk.
When reinsurers pull back, the primary insurers often have to take on more of the risk themselves.

Changing terms – Reinsurers are taking on less risk than they have in the past by raising attachment points, forcing primary insurers to take on more of the cost of claims.
Reinsurers are changing conditions for paying claims, getting more stringent in their definitions of various catastrophic events and triggers for paying claims.

The takeaway

While this hard reinsurance market continues, there is hope that rates will stabilize in the future bringing relief to insurers, and more importantly: You.
Both reinsurers and insurers are struggling to catch up with increasing costs and the “new normal.” Once they adapt, your premium may be more predictable.

October 2023 – Transportation Hiring Alert – Always Check New Drivers’ Clearinghouse Record

FLEET OPERATORS face an increased risk of potential liability if they are not diligent about checking their drivers’ moving violation records with the state Department of Motor Vehicles, in addition to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.

As of 2020, it became mandatory that all motor carriers sign up their drivers in the Clearinghouse and run their driver rosters through the system to clear them for duty. But many companies are skipping this step and only checking their drivers’ records with the DMV, which may not reflect any suspensions issued by the Clearinghouse.

Clearinghouse rules require that drivers be tested for drugs prior to being hired and randomly throughout the year. This helps employers weed out drivers who may be at higher risk of both moving violations and accidents.

The Clearinghouse

The Clearinghouse was created to keep commercial drivers who have violated federal drug and alcohol rules from lying about those results and getting a job with another motor carrier.
This electronic database tracks commercial drivers’ license holders who have tested positive for prohibited drug or alcohol use, as well as refusals to take required drug tests, and other drug and alcohol violations.

The Clearinghouse tracks a driver’s drug and alcohol tests and bars them from operating commercial vehicles after they fail a test. If they want to return to driving, they must successfully pass a return-to-duty process that includes substance abuse treatment and a test to evaluate their readiness.

The restriction can be lifted if the driver signs up for a Clearinghouse program that will test them 14 times in two years, with the first 12 tests having to occur in the first year.
This cost all comes out of the driver’s pocket.
This system is an important check on drivers and helps employers reduce their exposure.
The Department of Motor Vehicles is required to check the Clearinghouse before issuing a new or renewing a commercial driver’s license.

The takeaway

While it is the law that employers follow Clearinghouse procedures, because it’s a new system, many companies are failing to follow the rules.
If you are relying only on pulling a driver’s moving violation record and not the Clearinghouse, you are in breach of regulations and could leave your firm exposed.
If you employ a driver who is under suspension from driving by the Clearinghouse and they are involved in an accident, the victims could build a case that your organization was negligent in letting the individual drive and not checking the Clearinghouse first.
If they can prove negligence on a fleet operator’s part, the business could be in for a hefty court judgment.

July 2023 – Commercial Property Insurance – FAIR Plan More Than Doubles Coverage Limits

With more and more California businesses being forced to go to the California FAIR Plan for their coverage, the market of last resort has moved to increase its commercial property coverage limits significantly.

This should bring a semblance of relief to companies located in wildfire-prone areas, who have seen their commercial property insurance non-renewed and who have been unable to find replacement coverage. The decision comes as commercial property rates continue rising due to inflationary pressures, but in particular for companies located in areas that are considered urban-wildland interfaces.

Insurers have pulled back on underwriting commercial properties as well as homes in these areas. They’ve taken a number of actions, including:

  • Retreating from the California market altogether.
  • Selectively underwriting properties that are not considered at-risk.
  • Capping their exposures by only covering a set number of properties.
  • Requiring property owners to create defensible spaces and take other measures to harden their properties against wildfires.
  • Raising rates significantly.

Businesses whose policies are not renewed and who can’t find coverage in the market are able to go to the FAIR (Fair Access to Insurance Requirements) Plan for coverage. This is the market of last resort and premiums can be substantial, while the policy limits have often been inadequate to cover the full cost of the commercial enterprise’s property.


Policies cover damage caused by:

  • Fire
  • Lightning
  • Internal explosion

Optional coverages are available at an additional cost, such as coverage for vandalism and malicious mischief.
If you have to go to the FAIR Plan, we can arrange for a “differences in conditions” policy that will cover the areas in which the plan is deficient compared to a commercial property policy.

The FAIR Plan will cover the following commercial structures:

Habitational buildings – Buildings with five or more habitational units such as apartment buildings, hotels, or motels.
Retail establishments – Shops such as boutiques, salons, bakeries, and convenience stores.
Manufacturing – Companies that manufacture most types of products.
Office buildings – Offices for professionals such as design firms, doctors, lawyers, architects, consultants, or other office-based functions.
Buildings under construction – Residential and commercial buildings under construction from the ground up.
Farms and wineries – Basic property insurance for commercial farms, wineries, and ranches, not including coverage for crops and livestock.

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