|By David Ranii, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Mayors, county commissioners, county and town managers, and a state legislator testified at a public comment session Friday that they are mystified why the rates along the coast are already so high and why the insurance companies still want more. They also told
"People are exiting
Altogether, more than 20 people urged Insurance Commissioner
The industry wants an average increase of 25.3 percent statewide, but it varies by territory and is as high as 35 percent in some beach areas. The industry is seeking a 24.4 percent increase for homeowners in
The industry contends the hike is needed because of higher claims by homeowners in recent years stemming from tornadoes and storms.
Severe weather cited
On the eve of the public-comment session, the
"While increases are unpopular, insurance companies are trying to keep up with the high number of wind claims, rising costs and rates that have been suppressed for some time now," PCI's regional counsel, Oyango Snell, said in a prepared statement.
But several officials of coastal towns and counties testified that their communities have been spared in recent years.
"Our experience has been insignificant damage from storms and therefore we question the use of models that seem to ignore the real-world experience," said
Goodwin, the insurance commissioner who would have to approve any rate increase, already has come out against it. On the day the request was filed he urged the industry to withdraw it immediately.
Under state law, next month is the deadline for Goodwin to either approve the request -- which he's already made clear he won't do -- or approve a compromise or call for a public hearing at which the industry and state regulators would argue their case. Goodwin would preside over that hearing and then issue a ruling that could be appealed to the courts.
'Unfair and unreasonable'
The last time the industry asked for higher rates, in 2012, it sought an average increase of 17.7 percent but ultimately settled on a statewide increase that averaged 7 percent but went as high as 19.8 percent in beach areas. That hike went into effect
"With rates nearly six times higher than some other areas of
A few people suggested that the state's rate-approval process, which is unlike any other in the nation, should be changed.
Although most of those who testified were from the coast, a few Triangle homeowners spoke out against the rate proposal.
"We are really, really appalled because the insurance rate increased last year and in another six to eight months it is going to be increased again" if the rate hike is approved, said
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