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Assurant to Cut California Rates 30.5%, Regulator Says

Oct. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Assurant Inc., under pressure from California’s insurance regulator, will cut rates 30.5 percent at its American Security unit on home coverage that borrowers must buy when they miss payments on their initial policies.

The lower rate will save homeowners $42.7 million, with an average annual savings of $577 per policyholder, according to a statement today from state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

The decrease is larger than the 20 percent reduction that Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysts estimated as the “base case scenario” in an Oct. 3 research note. Regulators in California, Florida and New York have been pressing providers of so-called force-placed policies to cut premiums amid inquiries into whether they charge too much. The coverage is typically selected by lenders and paid for by borrowers.

“We heard complaints from homeowners being forced into lender-placed policies at exorbitant prices,” Jones said in the statement. “American Security is to be commended for being the first insurer to lower its rates.”

New rates will cut annualized net income by about $18 million, the New York-based insurer said today in a regulatory filing. Assurant has slipped about 0.4 percent this year, one of three insurers in the 22-company Standard & Poor’s 500 Insurance Index to decline since Dec. 31.

“We strive to set reasonable rates, and dedicate significant resources to help consumers avoid lender-placed coverage in the first place,” the insurer said in a statement. “When someone’s insurance lapses, lender-placed insurance provides a necessary safety net that protects the interests of homeowners and lenders alike.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Susanna Pak in New York at Spak10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Kraut at dkraut2@bloomberg.net

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