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Homeowners Could See Insurance Rates Jump 34 Percent in Avery, 21 Percent in Watauga, Ashe; Hearing Set for Oct. 20

By Jesse Wood

Oct. 16, 2014. If insurance companies get their way at an insurance rate hearing in Raleigh that starts on Monday, homeowners in Western North Carolina and most of the rest of North Carolina will see a significant jump in their insurance rates come Jan. 3.

Earlier this year, N.C. Rate Bureau requested a statewide average homeowners insurance rate hike of 25.3 percent. This is the third rate-hike request in the double digits in the past five years.

On Monday, N.C. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin will hear from the N.C. Rate Bureau, which represents insurance companies, and the N.C. Department of Insurance, which is representing the public, before determining any warranted rate adjustments.

Requested rates across the regions of the state vary dramatically, and after a request from High Country Press, the N.C. Department of Insurance released the percentage increase per territory.

Yadkin County sees the lowest rate hike request of only 3.1 percent, while portions of coastal areas like Currituck, Dare, Hyde, Brunswick, Carteret, New Hanover, Onslow counties, among others, could see rate hikes of up to 35 percent.

Alleghany, Ashe, Buncombe, Caldwell Catawba, Henderson, McDowell, Polk, Watauga and Yancey counties could see a rate hike up to 21.1 percent, and Avery and Mitchell counties could see a hike of up to 33.6 percent.

In a release earlier this year, a release from the N.C. Department of Insurance stated: “Goodwin ordered that a hearing be held in the matter because the proposed rates appear to the Department of Insurance to be excessive and unfairly discriminatory.”

Although the hearing is open to the public, homeowners are not allowed to speak at the public hearing. The department said it received more than 10,000 mailed and emailed comments during a month-long public comment process in January 2014, when the rate-hike request was received from the N.C. Rate Bureau. Also, 25 people spoke in person at a public comment session on Jan. 24.

This 25.3 percent request is not unlike a 17.7 percent request from the N.C. Rate Bureau in 2012 that was adjusted by Goodwin to 7 percent, effective July 1, 2013.

When that 7 percent was approved in 2013, the Insurance Journal reported that the last time the NCDPI approve a rate hike prior was in 2009 when insurance companies requested 19.5 percent, “but settled for 4 percent.”

The Oct. 20 hearing starts at 9 a.m. in the Jim Long Hearing Room on the third floor of the Dobbs Building, located at 430 North Salisbury St. in Raleigh. Based on a rate-hearing schedule, the hearing could last into November.

The filing is available for public review on NCDOI’s website. To view the entire filing, go to http://pserff.ncdoi.net/pc.html and enter the Serff Tracking Number NCRI-129361028.