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Session Law

2004

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Chapter 436 AN ACT RELATIVE TO THE JOINT UNDERWRITING ASSOCIATION.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:


SECTION 1. Section 1 of chapter 175C of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2002 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the word "mischief", in line 11, the following words:- and dwelling coverages.

SECTION 2. Said section 1 of said chapter 175C, as so appearing, is hereby amended by inserting after the definition of "Basic property insurance" the following definition:-

"Large share territory", any territory in which at least 7 per cent of the homeowners premium averaged over the most recent 3 calendar years was written by the association, with the specific percentage to be determined annually, such that the total homeowners premium written by the association in the preceding 3 years in large share territories as a percentage of the total homeowners premium written by the association does not exceed the percentage of the total homeowners premium written by the association in territories in which market share of the association equaled or exceeded 4 per cent in the 3 years immediately preceding 1996, pursuant to section 5; and such that in no event shall there be more than 13 large share territories designated in any given year. A territory cannot be a large share territory if the market share of the association in the territory is less than the market share of the association in another territory that is not a large share territory.

SECTION 3. Said chapter 175C is hereby further amended by striking out section 5, as so appearing, and inserting in place thereof the following section:-

Section 5. (a) The operation of the association shall be subject to the supervision and regulation of the commissioner. The commissioner or any person designated to act for the commissioner shall have the power to examine and investigate the operation of the association and shall have access to all the books, records, files, papers and documents that relate to its operations, may summon and qualify witnesses under oath, and may examine directors, officers, agents or employees or any other person having knowledge of the operations for the purpose of determining if the purposes of this chapter are being fulfilled.

(b) The association may make rate filings in accordance with chapter 174A and chapter 175A; provided, however, that the filing shall be subject to the prior approval of the commissioner, after proper notice and hearing, subject to the adjudicatory procedures of chapter 30A; and provided, further, that in reviewing the rates for the association, the commissioner shall give consideration, in addition to all other relevant factors, to the loss experience of insurers in the voluntary market, as well as the experience of the association and to the intent of this chapter to make basic property insurance available at reasonable cost to eligible applicants in large share territories.

(c) The commissioner shall approve all rates for the association for homeowners insurance in territories other than large share territories if the commissioner finds that the proposed rates for the territories comply with the requirements of the General Laws; but, the commissioner may disapprove the rate upon a finding that it exceeds a rate equal to the ninetieth percentile of the rates then in use in the territory by the 10 insurers with the largest market shares of homeowners insurance written in the commonwealth on a statewide basis. The commissioner shall approve all rates for the association for homeowners insurance in large share territories only if the commissioner finds that: (1) the proposed rates for the association for the territories comply with the requirements of the General Laws; and (2) no rate for the territory in any calendar year increases over the lowest rate for that product charged by the association during the prior calendar year in the territory by more than the overall statewide average percentage increase in rates charged from December 31 of the year preceding the prior calendar year to December 31 of that prior calendar year for homeowners insurance by the 10 insurers with the largest market shares of such insurance written in the commonwealth on a statewide basis. Notwithstanding clause (2), the commissioner shall consider the effects of predicted hurricane losses and the cost of catastrophe reinsurance on the rates charged by voluntary market insurers and the cost of catastrophe reinsurance and the predicted hurricane losses on the association approving rates for homeowners insurance in all territories. Whenever the average market share of the association during the most recent 3 years shall reach a level which newly qualifies a territory as a large share territory, the association shall analyze the rates of companies in that territory and shall file a report with the commissioner who shall, in turn, either re-certify the current rate or approve a revised rate for the territory filed by the association which bears a relationship to the rates in the voluntary market in the territory which is consistent with the average relationship between the rates charged by the association in all territories in which it has a similar market share and the rates in the voluntary market in those territories. As used in this subsection, the term "homeowners insurance" shall apply only to the types of products sold by the association on the effective date of this section. All other types of homeowners products subsequently sold by the association shall have a rate based on a factor approved by the commissioner that reflects the relative value of the coverage provided by the types of products to those for which rates have been approved by the commissioner.

SECTION 4. There shall be a special commission to examine the homeowner insurance market in large share territories, as defined in section 1 of chapter 175C. The commission shall investigate the availability and affordability of property insurance; the relevant rate driving factors including, but not limited to, insurance fraud, types of loss costs and their frequency, the cost and availability of reinsurance; the use of storm damage prediction data; the creation and potential benefit of a state-run catastrophic reinsurance program; and the overall competitiveness of the homeowners market in large share territories. The commission shall make any recommendations for legislative or regulatory action on those matters, with the clerks of the house and senate before April 1, 2005.

The commission shall consist of the chairman of the house committee on insurance or a designee; the vice chairman of the house committee on insurance or a designee, the house minority leader or a designee; the chairman of the senate committee on insurance or a designee; the vice chairman of the senate committee on insurance or a designee, the senate minority leader or a designee; 1 member of the house of representatives and 1 member of the senate who represent Cape Cod or coastal areas of the commonwealth; the commissioner of insurance or a designee; a representative from the Massachusetts Property Insurance Underwriting Association; a representative of the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents, a representative of the Center for Insurance Research, and a representative of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group.

SECTION 5. Sections 2 and 3 shall take effect on October 1, 2005.

SECTION 6. Sections 1 and 4 shall take effect upon the passage of this act.

Approved December 22, 2004.

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