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Major insurer for seniors stops insuring new homes in California

illustration of home on fire with papers in the foreground.
The Hartford joins a growing list of private insurers that have decided to stop writing new policies for homeowners or leave the state entirely. | Source: Midjourney

The Hartford Financial Services Group, a major provider of business, home and automotive insurance, will no longer write new policies for California homeowners starting on Feb. 1.

The pause in new business affects all forms of personal property coverage, which includes renter's insurance, condo insurance and dwelling fire insurance.

The company is known for its close partnership with the AARP and provides the only auto and home insurance program endorsed by the organization.

Matthew Sturdevant, a spokesperson for the Hartford, confirmed the decision to stop offering new homeowners policies next month.

"The homeowners insurance environment in California has unique challenges that have required us to reconsider the viability of writing new homeowners business in the state," Sturdevant said in a statement provided to The Standard.

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He noted that the company will continue to write business insurance and personal auto policies and will continue to renew existing homeowners insurance "consistent with our underwriting guidelines."

According to data provided by the California Department of Insurance, the company ranks as the 15th largest active insurer in the state across all of its business lines.

With its decision, the Hartford joins a growing list of private insurers, including State Farm, Allstate, Farmers Insurance and USAA, that have decided to stop writing new policies for homeowners or leave the state entirely.

New homebuyers are finding it increasingly hard to purchase homes in California as insurance companies flee the state.

The insurance industry has argued that increased liability due in large part to increasing wildfire risk has run into an outdated regulatory system.

A number of insurers have also received the green light from regulators to raise their rates in line with inflation and more extensive damage because of climate change. Those cost increases have not been limited to homeowners policies, with auto insurance rates also rising across the state.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom has directed Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara to determine a pathway to preserve the accessibility of insurance coverage by updating some of those rules.

Lara's plan, dubbed the Sustainable Insurance Strategy, includes several proposals, including allowing new models for underwriting policies, rewarding consumers for mitigating wildfire risk and expanding the California FAIR Plan, which serves as the fire insurer of last resort for the state.

"We do not enter into this decision lightly, and we appreciate and support efforts like Commissioner Lara’s Sustainability Insurance Strategy to help bring stability to the market," Sturdevant said. "We will be watching those efforts closely."

Karl Susman, president of the Susman Insurance Agency in Los Angeles, said the Hartford is a brand name in the industry that is highly recognized. Susman noted that the company has been around for more than two centuries and counted Abraham Lincoln as one of its early customers.

"When people hear the Hartford stopped, it's a jolt," Susman said.

He noted that the company's pullback will likely have a disproportionate impact on older folks because of the AARP partnership.

"It's negative momentum," Susman said. "It's kind of like a kick in the teeth to everyone trying to facilitate our way out of our current situation."

Kevin Truong can be reached at kevin@sfstandard.com