Homeowners sound off against insurance hike proposal - WFLA News Channel 8

Homeowners sound off against insurance hike proposal

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A proposal to hike homeowners insurance is under fire. About 40 property owners spoke out against the proposal at a public comment session in the state capital on Friday.

Homeowners came together in Raleigh to state their case why homeowners insurance shouldn't go up.

"It'll devastate me," said Mark Mansfield from Morehead City.

Mansfield says the insurance hike would hurt him not only as a homeowner, but as a real estate broker. Under the proposal, his homeowners insurance could go up in August by 35 percent.

"I had a closing the other day on a $150,000 home and the couple, their escrows for their insurance and taxes was higher than their mortgage payment," said Mansfield.

The North Carolina Rate Bureau is the agency representing insurance companies. They filed 1,187 page document on January 3 requesting permission to raise premiums by a statewide average of 25 percent.

"It's a pretty substantial number. We're not insensitive to that. But we can't continue as an industry to sell a product that is underpriced," said Ray Evans, North Carolina Rate Bureau general manager.

Evans says the insurance industry lost a lot of money in 2010 and 2011 after paying out claims for tornado and hail storm damage. He says insurance premiums have always been too low.

"We've made five filings since 2000. In each case, we had had approved much less than what we thought were the appropriate rates, so we're always trying to catch up," said Evans.

But for Mansfield, that explanation isn't good enough.

"I hope they will deny the rate increase and that'll be the end of story," said Mansfield.

But it's up to state insurance commissioner Wayne Goodwin to decide.

"He advocates for the consumer. At the same time he has the responsibility of maintaining a viable market that enables us to have the insurance products available," said Bob Mack, N.C. Department of Insurance deputy commissioner of the property and casualty division.

The state insurance department expects to make a decision by the end of February.

The state department of insurance says they have received more than 4,500 written comments on the proposal, said Mack.

Public written comments will be accepted until January 31.

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Homeowners are up in arms over a proposed increase to their insurance rate. The North Carolina Department of Insurance is considering a 25 percent average hike to homeowners' insurance rates.

One Craven County property owner says enough is enough, after her insurance rate doubled in the last eight years.

Cheryl Salter of Bridgeton has had a difficult year. The 67-year-old is living on a fixed income with a disability. Now she's worried her struggles may get even harder.

"What is somebody going to do to stop this insurance?" said Salter. "It's getting ridiculous."

The North Carolina Rate Bureau wants homeowners in Carteret, Onslow, Duplin, and Lenoir counties to pay 35 percent more for insurance.

In Martin and Pitt counties, there is a proposed 22 percent hike. In Pamlico County, the proposed hike is nearly 10 percent. And in Beaufort, Craven, and Jones, the proposed hike is almost 8 percent.

"I think it is a political thing to make the rich people rich people richer and the poor people poorer," said Salter.

Salter says she pays about $1,500 a year in homeowners insurance, almost as much as the principal of her mortgage.

"I'm afraid it's getting to the point we may have to consider trying to get out of owning our own home, and going somewhere else just to rent," said Salter.

Onslow County commissioners are speaking out too. They passed a resolution against the hike saying, "We appreciate the need for insurance; however we want to go on the record to express our displeasure with such an inequitable solution."

For people who would like to weigh in on the rate requests in person, there will be a public comment session on Friday, Jan. 24, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Jim Long Hearing Room of the Dobbs Building, 430 N. Salisbury St., Raleigh.

Salter has a message for anyone planning to go to the public comment session.

"Please let them know that maybe some people can tolerate these kind of prices, but us poor people cannot," she said.

Salter still keeps her Christmas decorations up in January because they bring her cheer. She may have to keep them up for the rest of the year if the hikes go through.

As of January 20, the Department of Insurance had received more than 2,000 emailed or mailed written comments.

The deadline for submitting written comments to the North Carolina Department of Insurance is January 31.

Written public comments should be emailed to 2014homeowners@ncdoi.gov or mailed to: NCDOI, Attn: Bob Mack, Property & Casualty Division, 1201 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699.

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