State cuts top insurance rate for Polk homeowners

Published 3:15 pm Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Polk County homeowners could see a slight decrease in their homeowner&squo;s insurance next year.

North Carolina Insurance Commission Jim Long recently signed a settlement agreement with homeowners insurance companies, setting the maximum allowable rates across 18 sections of the state.

The insurance companies had requested a 9.2 percent increase in the rate for the region that includes Polk and most other Western North Carolina counties. But Long has ordered a 1.2 percent decrease for the region.

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If the requested increase had been approved it would have resulted in an estimated bill of $532 for a frame home valued at $150,000, according to the N.C. Department of Insurance.

By comparison, the ordered decrease would result in a bill of $480 for the same home.

The settlement agreement reached by Insurance Commissioner Long results in an overall statewide average increase of 4.05 percent in homeowners insurance rates. The new rates will take effect May 1.

This is a much lower statewide increase than the 19.5 percent increase originally proposed by the North Carolina Rate Bureau; the Bureau represents all of the homeowners insurance companies doing business in the state.

&dquo;There has been a lot of speculation surrounding this homeowners rate filing, but I feel that we&squo;ve reached a settlement that is fair to both consumers and insurance companies in North Carolina,&dquo; said Commissioner Long. &dquo;No one likes to see their insurance rates go up, but the industry made a strong case for allowing some increases this year. The silver lining is that most consumers won&squo;t see nearly the increases that were initially proposed.&dquo;

The settlement also realigns several insurance territories along the coast. The realignment divides former Territory 43, which included many of the coastal counties, into two separate territories ‐ 43 West and 43 East &dquo;It makes sense to the Department that homeowners who live farther inland should pay less for insurance because they have less exposure to the impact of a hurricane. The realignment of the territories kept this in mind and was a way to group the geographically-similar parts of the coastal counties, creating fairer rates for homeowners at the coast.&dquo;

The highest rate increases will be seen in regions along the coast. Commission Long ordered a 29.8 percent increase for Brunswick, New Hanover, Onslow and Pender counties, although that&squo;s well below the 69.8 percent increase that was requested.

The highest rates in the state are in the region that includes Brunswick, New Hanover, Onslow and Pender counties. There a frame home valued at $150,000 will have a maximum allowable charge of $2,342 following the 17.5 percent increase approved by the state. The North Carolina Rate Bureau had requested a 50.9 percent increase that would have resulted in a bill of $3,010 for the same house.

There are many contributing factors that affect the ratemaking process; the main arguments presented in the rate filing include the increasing costs associated with paying claims ‐ like rising construction and repair costs.

The approved rates are the highest allowable rates that companies can charge; they can ‐ and often do ‐ offer discounts which can lower what homeowners pay.