California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi announced Thursday that Safeco is seeking a 20 percent reduction in homeowners’ insurance rates.

Safeco — which the Department of Insurance says is the eighth-largest homeowners’ insurer in the state — is the fourth company to agree to slash homeowners’ insurance rates under pressure from the state.

In June, Garamendi ordered four insurers — Safeco, State Farm Insurance, Allstate and Farmers — to justify the rates they charged for homeowners’ insurance, claiming the companies paid out far less in claims than they collected in premiums.

A study commissioned by the state found that in 2005, State Farm paid 37.6 percent of each homeowner’s insurance premium dollar for claims; Allstate paid 41 percent; Farmers paid 37.7 percent; and Safeco paid 26.31 percent.

While State Farm and Safeco have agreed to reduce their rates, Allstate is seeking a 12.2 percent increase.

Garamendi said Safeco’s rate reduction would save consumers an average of $190 a year, or $36 million altogether. State Farm Insurance has requested a 10.6 percent reduction in homeowners’ insurance rates, which Garamendi says will save 1.2 million homeowners an average of $103 a year.

Two other homeowners’ insurers, USAA and The Hartford Insurance Co., have agreed to rate reductions. USAA filed for a 22 percent reduction in August, and The Hartford Insurance Co. in June asked the state to approve an 18 percent decrease in homeowner and renter premium rates.

Garamendi, who is running for lieutenant governor in the November elections, is also proposing a 23 percent rollback in title insurance rates in March. The title insurance and escrow industries are fighting the proposed $1 billion-a-year rollback, saying the state must prove a lack of competition in the industry in order to cap rates.

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