@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

NC homeowners, renters could face major insurance increase

Posted December 12, 2017 5:56 p.m. EST
Updated December 13, 2017 3:03 p.m. EST

— Some North Carolina insurance companies want raise the price of homeowners insurance by about 18 percent, on average statewide, for property owners and 36 percent for renters and condominium owners.

The proposed rate increases vary widely around the state. Some mountain areas would see a small decrease, but in eastern North Carolina, the rate could increase by 25 percent.

Insurance companies say the increase is needed to cover their rapidly rising costs, and they say even more increases could be needed in the near future.

Insurers say their hurricane catastrophe models support the increase. But coastal residents and advocates feel such a large increase isn't warranted, as North Carolina's coast hasn't suffered major damage since Hurricane Fran in 1996.

The proposed increase was an unwelcome surprise to Youngsville homeowner Bob Peters. He thinks a 22 percent increase for Wake County is too much.

"When you're retired and living on a pension and Social Security, every little bit hurts," he said.

Peters wants state regulators to look into the reason for the request by insurance companies.

Raleigh homeowner Karen Britt Peeler agrees.

"(It) seems like a very large increase when we haven't had anything major, at least in this area," she said.

Rental and condo insurance would cost nearly 30 to 40 percent more statewide.

Willo Kelly, who represents coastal realtors and homebuilders, as well as a coastal county advocacy group called NC 20, said rates near the coast are already double or triple the rates in the Piedmont, and she's afraid working people will be driven out of their homes by such a large increase.

Kelly pointed out that coastal property owners have wind and flood insurance policies in addition to the standard homeowners policy.

"So, when you add all of your insurance up, it can be more than your mortgage payment," she said.

Joanna Biliouris, chief operating officer of the North Carolina Rate Bureau, which represents the insurance companies, said rates haven't gone up since 2012, and the requested increase is needed to cover rising costs.

Rep. Bob Muller, R-Pender, said the proposed increase is unwarranted.

"We've been paying high premiums ever since [Fran] with no great substantial losses, so we think we've paid our share of that," said Muller. "We want the commission to look at that and see if the increase really is warranted to be that high."

State insurance regulators will negotiate with the insurers. If they can come to a compromise, it will be up to Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey to approve it.

If a compromise is not reached, the matter will be the subject of a public hearing, likely in early summer 2018.

The deputy commissioner said they've received 94 written comments as of Tuesday morning. Only a few people have shown up to complain in person.