Commissioner tempers insurance rate increases

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While insurance companies in North Carolina proposed 35 percent increases in homeowner’s insurance rates, North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin struck down the increases in a ruling Friday, Dec. 19.

Goodwin ordered an overall 0 percent statewide average change in homeowner’s insurance rates, effective June 1, 2015. On average throughout the state, homeowner’s insurance rates will decrease by 0.3 percent, renter’s insurance rates will increase by 11.2 percent and condo owner’s insurance rates will increase by 8.1 percent.

In New Hanover County the proposed insurance rate changes called for 35 percent increases for the beaches and eastern portion of the county, and a 1.9 percent reduction for the western portion of the county. However, with Goodwin’s ruling, the beaches will see a 5.6 percent reduction, the eastern portion of the county will see a 1 percent reduction and the western portion will see an 18 percent reduction.

Goodwin attended a summit hosted by the Wilmington Regional Association of Realtors (WRAR) and Business Alliance for a Sound Economy (BASE) in September.

WRAR President Jody Wainio said she applauded Goodwin’s move and believes the exposure to the public he received during the summit helped the coastal counties.

“I think it is a win and I appreciate him sticking to his guns and really standing up to the insurance companies,” Wainio said during a Monday, Dec. 22 phone interview. “I think he heard from more than just us Realtors and that was a good thing. When you hear from the public and the people that voted for you it makes a difference.”

While she is pleased with the ruling, Wainio said she remains fearful the insurance companies will find a way to circumvent the order.

“My concern is the insurance companies can still issue consents to rate orders with their customers and still require them to pay more if they want to continue their coverage,” she said.

Insurance companies can threaten policy holders’ coverage if they do not agree to consent to rate orders, which allows the company to charge more than what the insurance commission allows, she said.

“With having a handful of companies to choose from in the system we have, they all get in cahoots with each other and do the same thing,” she said.

Like Wainio, Tyler Newman, BASE governmental affairs director, also applauded Goodwin’s stance but took issue with the insurance system’s imbalance across the state.

“It still confounds me why our basic homeowner’s rates are three times higher than the rest of the state, when we also have to have wind coverage, and, in some cases, flood coverage,” Newman stated in a Friday, Dec. 19 email. “What will be interesting to see is what happens when the legislature convenes.”

New Hanover County was not the only coastal county to benefit from Goodwin’s ruling. Carteret, Onslow, Pender and Brunswick counties all received the same reductions. The beaches of Dare, Hyde and Currituck counties received 9 percent reductions while the eastern portions of those counties received 12 percent reductions. The coastal areas of Beaufort, Camden, Chowan, Craven, Jones, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrell and Washington counties all received an 11 percent decrease.

Wainio said WRAR would continue to lobby for insurance rate equality heading into the North Carolina General Assembly’s long session in January 2015.

“We have support from the North Carolina Association of Realtors as well … to continue to look for ways to help the coastal counties fight the high rates we are paying and it took a long time to get them to jump on board,” Wainio said. “All of the coastal counties have joined efforts in this and we have strength in numbers.”

email cole@luminanews.com 

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