NM: Hi Ben! Thanks for joining me today.
BR: Hey Nikolai. No problem.
NM: So your Border Belt article covered some kind of shocking move by the North Carolina Bureau of Standards. The bureau just proposed an increase in homeowners insurance rates. Tell us about it.
BR: So, as you said, the Bureau, which represents insurance companies across the state, they are proposing a rate increase with a statewide increase of 42%. But then that rate varied widely among counties and in coastal areas like Columbus and Brunswick and New Hanover. And that rate was much higher than the nationwide 42%. In some places, it was closer to 99%, such as in Brunswick and Pender counties. So there are counties that we cover in the border belt – like Bladen, Columbus, Robeson and Scotland. There, insurance increases were proposed between 56 and 63%, which is again slightly higher than the statewide proposal.
NM: Long-time residents will know that these numbers are far from your typical rate hike. In 2017, the bureau only asked for an increase of 18.7%.
BR: Well, the increase comes mainly because there was a moratorium on rate increases by the state insurance commission during COVID. So insurance companies also said they are facing higher costs for materials and labor. And I think a lot of that also goes back to something that we’re seeing in all aspects of life right now, which is just rampant inflation.
NM: Oh yes. And I think anyone on the coast can point to the weather as a big factor.
BR: Yes, absolutely. And really, a lot of that just depends on those risk factors, you know, the insurance rates in our part of the state that the southeastern part of the state really went up a lot after 2016 and 2018, certainly with Hurricanes Florence and Matthew. , only causing numerous damages, and displacement of people, destruction of homes, etc. All of these bring increased insurance risk. and increasing insurance rates. And, you know, so a proposal to continue raising those rates for homeowners. It is really scary for many citizens.
NM: Sure. But Mike Causey – he’s the insurance commissioner – he rejected those rate hikes, didn’t he?
BR: Mike Causey vetoed that rate hike, I believe. And as I said, he’s also rejected previous rate increases from insurance or the Bureau of Rates, or at least he’s working, as we talked about, to negotiate and lower that rate proposed by the Bureau of Rates. So now, that really sets up more negotiations, and potentially a trial date if the Toll Bureau and the insurance commissioner can’t agree on some sort of statewide insurance rate proposal. So far, that court date has been set for Oct. 7. So they still have plenty of time to sort things out. And in the past, they have and you know, Jared Chappell, who’s the head of the rate bureau says that, you know, he wasn’t surprised and he liked it because he rejected the homeowners insurance rate proposal of the house of 42%, he expected that an insurance rate proposal would not be approved. I think a lot of it is politics. But, you know, he says, you know, they’re kind of like that, you gotta shoot for the stars, and then you end up somewhere in between. Right. So this is something that is happening in this case.
NM: So all we can do now is wait.
BR: You know, one thing worth noting here is that Mike Causey received over 25,000 public comments on this proposed rate hike. Many people were concerned or upset about this proposed rate hike which was excessive especially in coastal cities.
NM: I think it was NC Newsline, and I’m paraphrasing, that quoted him as saying something to the effect of, “I heard it loud and clear from the shore.” I expect he will continue to hear from the coast until the court date.
BR: Yes, absolutely. I have no doubt.
NM: OK. Well, thanks for joining us, Ben. I really appreciate it.
BR: Of course. Thank you, Nikolai.