Rate hikes proposed in homeowners insurance

Published 5:23 pm Saturday, December 13, 2008

RALEIGH — Are North Carolinians facing hikes in their homeowner’s insurance rates?

And, if so, how high will those rates increase?

Earlier this week, the North Carolina Rate Bureau submitted a rate filing with the state Department of Insurance requesting a 19.5 percent statewide average increase in homeowner’s insurance. The Bureau is an independent organization that represents all of the homeowner’s insurance companies doing business in the state.

What makes this request more intriguing is that it comes during a period of transition in the state Department of Insurance. Longtime Insurance Commissioner Jim Long is retiring. He has been a champion of the insured (homeowners and vehicle owners) during his time in office. How his replacement, Wayne Goodwin, will handle such a request is yet to be seen.

“For over a year we’ve known that this rate filing was coming and that insurance companies think rates are too low, but that doesn’t mean that the increases they’ve requested will automatically be approved,” said Commissioner Long. “Take a look back at the homeowners filings we’ve gotten over the years and you’ll see that the industry generally asks for higher increases than the Department deems necessary. This filing is no different. We will review the data to determine if the requests are justified and I will make a decision fairly quickly.”

Another unique twist to the proposed rate increase is that the request from the Rate Bureau varies from region to region. Locally, the “Inner Banks” counties of Bertie, Gates and Hertford could experience as much as a 15.4 percent increase. Northampton County, which lies a bit further inland, will see its homeowners facing a possible 13.2 percent rate hike.

Meanwhile, homeowners in the coastal counties will bear the brunt of the increases, if approved. Those living in the beach areas Brunswick, New Hanover, Onslow and Pender counties (southeastern North Carolina) face the largest proposed increase (69.8 percent). Further up the coast in Carteret, Currituck, Dare and Hyde counties, homeowners possibly face an increase of 32.9 percent.

On the other side of the coin, the Rate Bureau’s lowest proposed hikes are in the Charlotte area – Gaston Mecklenburg and Union counties (1.20 percent) and in 29 mountains/foothills counties (9.20 percent).

Unlike auto rate filings, the Rate Bureau is not required to file homeowner’s insurance rates annually; however, the state Department of Insurance and the Bureau are in contact throughout the year about issues facing homeowner’s rates.

Recent media coverage of both the North Carolina Joint Underwriting Association, commonly known as the Beach Plan, and the private homeowners insurance market has created much confusion among consumers with respect to their homeowner’s insurance rates. Many consumers who are contacting the Department of Insurance think their homeowners rates have already received approval for an increase, when in fact, no rate increases for the private homeowners insurance rates have been approved based on the Dec. 8 filing.