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IMPORTANT OUTER BANKS, NC INSURANCE NEWS FOR 2014Higher insurance rates coming
Philip S Ruckle Jr.
Coastland Times, January 12, 2014
With everyone facing shocking increase to both homeowner and flood insurance rates, the Kill Devil Hills town hall meeting room was packed with a standing room only crowd Thursday night, January 9, with people interested in what is taking place and what needs to be done.
The meeting, sponsored by The League of Women Voters of Dare, allowed Willo Kelly, government affairs director for the Outer Banks Association of Realtors and Outer Banks Home Builders Association, to talk about legislation changes in place and on the horizon with an immediate call to action.
Armed with facts and figures, Kelly said people are getting hit on two fronts.
In July 2012 Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (BW-12) which was touted as an improvement in how the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is run and a way to make the program more financially stable.
Here in North Carolina the department of insurance received a request to increase statewide homeowner rates an average of 25.3 percent with a requested effective date of August 1. Kelly said the NC insurance filing is troubling for several reasons.
“There has not been a hearing on a homeowners insurance rate filing since 199,” said Kelly. “With the last rate increase some coastal areas were hit with increases as high as 19 percent. Not only that, some homeowners could get another increase before they’ve been informed of what the first increase was.”
Kelly gave a comparison between rates in Dare County and those in Charlotte.
“There were no rate increases in Charlotte from 1993 through 2009 where rates went from $351 to $436,” she said. “In Dare County the change was from $578 to $2,178.
Kelly went on to say that actual filings do not show any justification for a rate increase. To highlight the issue, she presented a map of North Carolina designating claims with the bulk of them in non-coastal areas.
NC Department of Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin has 30 days from the date of the filing to hold a public comment period/session. Kelly said that is not much of an opportunity to review the very lengthy document and formulate a response.
“It is imperative that we make our voices be heard,” she added. “We cannot sit back and let someone else carry the water for us.”
To be heard on the homeowner rate increase, comments need to be sent immediately to NC Department of Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin before January 31. Written comments should be mailed to: NCDOI, Attn: Bob Mack, Property & Casualty Division, 1201 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1201; or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A public comment session will be in the Jim Long Hearing Room of the Dobbs Building, 430 N. Salisbury Street, Raleigh from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm on Friday, January 24.
Kelly said that there have been conversations to indicate that the true rate increase sought is a 125 percent increase.
At the federal level, Kelly encouraged both home and business owners to learn their flood risk and talk to their insurance agent to determine if they will be affected by the Biggert-Waters act.
Proponents say the Biggert-Waters act is an attempt to make flood insurance prices more realistic by removing discounts that some property owners have enjoyed for decades. Opponents say those discounts never really existed.
One of the changes included in BW-12 is a requirement that the NFIP raise rates to reflect true flood risk. That means any Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) updates could mean premium rate increases for policy holders even if built to current standards. Premiums have the potential to increase by 25 percent per year, for the next four years until the full-risk rates are reached.
The law requires insurance agents to raise premiums for original owners of older properties 20 percent a year until they reach what FEMA calls their actuarial rates. New owners would see an immediate increase.
“One of the problems buried in the bill is the elimination of any grandfathered properties,” said Kelly. “In the past, many buildings were allowed to keep their original flood-risk rating even if the zone designation was changed in a later flood zone map. Now all buildings will be rated using the latest maps. So you may not be affected today, but in five or seven years when the maps change you could be.
“If your premium goes to $30,000 a year you’re going to have to figure out a way to come up with the $30,000 or elevate your house or do something to where it won’t be $30,000.”
Because flood zone maps are changing throughout the country even those buildings that might now be in a flood zone and not required today to have flood insurance could find they are required to do so under newer maps.
And, Kelly said, it will be more than just coastal communities affected but those inland as well.
“Fifty-two percent of the nation lives with 50 miles of a watershed area,” she explained. “That is 22,000 communities in all states and territories that participate in the NFIP.”
She went on to say that there was $6 million more collected than claims paid out from 1978 through 2012. Kelly said also that Bigger Waters has the potential to do more damage to the coast of this State than any hurricane ever experienced.
“This is not just a real estate issue,” she continued. “This affects the affordability of housing. Insurance plays a critical role and the American Dream is turning into a nightmare.”
The U.S. Senate is expected to vote in the coming week on Senate Bill 1846, introduced by N.J. Senator Robert Menendez, call the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Ace of 2013. If passed the bill will delay several changes to the insurance program overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Kay Hagan is one of 20 Democratic and eight Republican co-sponsors. Reps. Walter Jones and Mike McIntyre are also pushing for the delay. Several tax, business and environmental organizations are opposed to any delays for Biggert-Waters.
Kelly said residents need to contact Senators Hagan and Richard Burr.
To contact Senator Burr: (202) 224-3154 or click here; and contact Senator Hagan at (202) 224-6342; http://www.hagan.senate.gov/contact/.
Mollie A. Fearing & Associates Inc. provides homeowners, automobile, watercraft and business insurance coverage on the Outer Banks & Dare County, North Carolina.
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