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NC Rate Bureau seeks rate hike

Complacency has a cost and attending the February 13 public forum on a recent rate increase filing by the North Carolina Rate Bureau helps put in focus just how easy it is for what you do not know to hurt your pocketbook.

Repeatedly.

Barely four months after one insurance rate hike, the Rate Bureau is back in front of the North Carolina Department of Insurance with its hand out for more money.

To counter that move, the The League of Women Voters® of Dare County and Outer Banks Association of REALTORS® CEO Willo Kelly hosted a room full of people at the Kill Devil Hills Town Hall to provide details behind a December 20 request to raise North Carolina homeowners insurance rates an average of 17.4 percent.

“If you think we just went through this, you are right,” said Kelly.

The proposed rate increases under consideration are on the heels of a previous rate hike that went into effect October 1.

rate bureau

Kimberly Endre hands out NC Homeowners Alliance information to participants leaving a February 13 public forum in Kill Devil Hills on a recent rate increase filing by the North Carolina Rate Bureau. The Alliance serves as a collective voice for homeowners and supports policies that protect home values. Philip S. Ruckle Jr. photo

According to Kelly, although the statewide average is a 17.4 percent increase, the request includes a 30 percent rate increase for homeowners on the barrier island portion areas of Currituck, Dare and Hyde counties, with a 25 percent increase for homeowners rates in the inland Currituck, Dare, Hyde and Pamlico areas.

Kelly then pointed out that there really has not been enough time to thoroughly evaluate the adequacy of the new rates that went into effect just four and a half month ago.

“The unwarranted increased cost of homeowners insurance impacts the affordability of housing and the ability of a policyholder to make their mortgage payments,” added Kelly. “This impacts families that live here in our year-round neighborhoods.

“The increase in the homeowners insurance rate,” explained Kelly, “affects year-round resident policyholders, wind only policyholders, condo and renter policyholders. This rate filing does not affect dwelling policies.”

“The cost of insurance overall,” she continued, “and some of us are paying on four and five policies if you have to have excess coverage, could include a flood policy, homeowner fire and liability policy, a wind policy, an excess flood and excess wind. So, it all adds up to where you are paying more than you mortgage payment and more than your taxes.

“The rising cost of insurance impacts the affordability of housing,” Kelly added. “Not the ability to buy a house, but the ability to maintain your mortgage.”

North Carolina law (G.S. 58-36-10) sets out a process for setting rates:

● Rates or loss costs shall not be excessive, inadequate or unfairly discriminatory.
● Consideration may be given to the experience of property insurance business during the most recent five-year period for which that experience is available.
● Modeled hurricane losses from more than one hurricane model is required.
● Due consideration shall be given to a reasonable margin for underwriting profit and to contingencies.

Kelly urged area residents to participate in a public comment period that ends February 26.

In North Carolina, the Rate Bureau acts as one insurance company representing all insurance companies in the state. The NC Department of Insurance makes the final decision on the maximum rate that can be used.

After the public comment period, North Carolina Department of Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey can do nothing and the proposed rates will become effective October 1, 2019, or deny the filing and call for a hearing. Causey could also negotiate a settlement with Rate Bureau to come up with a different rate.

“We need to engage, inform and act,” cautioned Kelly. “We need to be contacting officials to see if we can get a caravan to Raleigh that day. If you cannot attend the public comment forum, send an email.”

In closing Kelly provided some talking points for sending comments to Raleigh:

• The proposed rate increases are excessive, unwarranted and unfairly discriminatory.
• This filing impacts the affordability of housing and the ability of a policyholder to make their mortgage payments.
• This impacts families that live in our year-round neighborhoods.
• The filing does not include the number of policyholders or amounts charged over the manual rate under “consent to rate.”
• The increase in the homeowners insurance rate affects year-round resident policyholders, wind only policyholders, condo and renter policyholders.
• Rate increases just went into effect October 1, 2018. There has not been enough time to thoroughly evaluate the adequacy of the newly effective rate increases.
• No filing should be considered until the NC Department of Insurance has clear knowledge of how many policyholders are paying premiums based on consent to rate and how much over and above the manual rate has been charged.

She also cautioned against sending cookie cutter messages and that they do not want to hear simply that you do not want to pay more – try to personalize the message.

A Public Comment Forum will be held to listen to public input on the rate increase request by the Rate Bureau from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. on February 26 in the Second Floor Hearing Room of the N.C. Department of Insurance in the Albemarle Building, 325 N. Salisbury St. in Raleigh.

Emailed public comments should be sent by February 26, to: 2018Homeowners@ncdoi.gov.

Written public comments should be mailed to Tricia Ford, paralegal administrator, to be received by February 26, and addressed to 1201 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1201.

The filing request can be found in its entirety by going to http://www.ncdoi.com/PC/Filing_Search.aspx, search by SERFF number, Begin Search, Accept terms and enter the SERFF tracking number NCRI-131761557 in the appropriate field.

Last Wednesday’s LWV session with Kelly was recorded in order to make available to those unable to attend:

https://lwvdarenc.org/2019/02/16/homeowners-insurance-rate-filing/

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