One of the most common misconceptions about the surplus lines market is that it isn’t regulated by the states. In fact, it’s not uncommon for several different entities to work together to protect the interests of consumers.
While state insurance departments oversee surplus lines licensing for individuals and business entities – just as they do for standard lines producers – there are two other organizations unique to the non-admitted market that also participate in the regulatory process: surplus lines associations and stamping offices. Newcomers to the sector are sometimes unclear about the roles each of these organizations play in the surplus lines compliance process.
Surplus Lines Associations
Surplus lines associations, also known as SLAs, aren’t actually government agencies. Instead, they are groups of surplus lines professionals who unite to advocate for the industry with state regulators and lawmakers. Many associations offer educational resources for surplus lines professionals. In some states, the SLA also conducts financial reviews and provides oversight of the non-admitted market. Some even review filings for compliance before passing them on to the state and collect surplus lines taxes – acting much like a stamping office.
Currently, about 30 states have SLAs, although a number of states in the northeast “share” the New England Surplus Lines Association. Some state associations maintain their own offices with full-time staff. In others, things are more informal, and activities are handled by working surplus lines professionals who volunteer their time.
In most states, membership in the surplus lines association is voluntary, but a few states require anyone transacting surplus lines business to join their association. This is typically in states where the SLA provides a degree of market oversight or collect fees and taxes on the state’s behalf. You can become a member by visiting the association’s website and completing the appropriate forms. Associations usually have several categories of memberships, so make sure you choose the one that fits what you’re doing in that state.
Fifteen states currently have stamping offices, and together they process more than half of all surplus lines premiums written in the United States. The primary responsibility of the stamping office is to review surplus lines transactions to ensure they comply with state laws and regulations.
Additionally, they assess the financial soundness of eligible non-admitted insurers and protect consumers from ineligible insurers. Stamping offices also collect premium taxes and other state-specific fees and pass them along to state governments. They are not government agencies, however; but the creation of surplus lines insurers to help self-regulate the industry.
Surprise! Not All States Work the Same Way
Understanding the differences between surplus lines associations and stamping offices isn’t made easier by the fact that different states organize oversight responsibilities in different ways. Texas, for example, has the Texas Surplus Lines Association (TSLA) and the Surplus Lines Stamping Office of Texas (SLTX). In New York, on the other hand, the Excess Lines Association of New York (ELANY) also serves as the state’s stamping office. A number of states don’t have either organization. In these states, you can contact the insurance department for more information about surplus lines compliance.
Need to find a state regulator? Bookmark ILSA’s State Regulators Contact Information page. This FREE resource help you connect not only with surplus lines regulators, but also state insurance departments, Secretary of State’s Offices, and state departments of revenue/taxation.