The N.C. Rate Bureau filed notice Monday with the state Insurance Department that requests an overall 18.7 percent hike in homeowner insurance rates for 2018.
The bureau is an independent group representing insurers writing policies in North Carolina. It typically asks for rate increases — some substantially higher in areas prone to damage from natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and winter storms.
The state insurance commissioner seldom agrees to the bureau’s full request, but instead typically approves a lower increase, or sometimes a decrease, for each of the state’s 18 territories as measured by risk.
If a settlement between the commissioner and bureau cannot be reached within 50 days, a public hearing will be called.
It is the first rate increase officially sought by the bureau since January 2014.
At that time, the bureau requested a statewide average increase of 25.6 percent, to go into effect Aug. 1, 2014. The rate increase request was 16.2 percent for Alamance, Forsyth and Guilford, and 20.6 percent for Greensboro and Winston-Salem.
Wayne Goodwin, a Democrat serving as commissioner, rejected that increase and issued a ruling of “no change.” Goodwin said the bureau’s rate increase would have cost North Carolina homeowners a combined $600 million.
In August 2016, the state Appeals Court ruled in Goodwin’s favor against the bureau’s appeal. In December 2016, the state Supreme Court denied the bureau’s appeal, as well as a separate bureau appeal “based on a constitutional question.”
Monday’s request is the bureau’s first before Commissioner Mike Causey, a Republican who was elected in November 2016.
“I think it is in the nature of the office that the commissioner displays a pro-consumer stance, at least publicly, since it is consumers — as voters — that elect the commissioner, and not insurance companies,” said Michael Walden, an economics professor at N.C. State University.
The last time the bureau secured a rate increase was in 2012, when it settled for an overall statewide average of 7 percent after requesting a 17.7 percent hike.
A public comment period is required by law. A forum will be held from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Dec. 12 at the department’s offices in Raleigh.
Email comments can be sent to 2017HomeInsurance@ncdoi.gov, while written comments can be sent to Tricia Ford at 1201 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1201. Both sets of comments must be received by Dec. 29.
David Wood, an insurance professor at Appalachian State University, has said he would not be surprised by another round of insurers sending consent-to-rate requests to homeowners.
“Consent to rate” means a homeowner is consenting to pay a rate higher than the maximum homeowners’ insurance rates set by the commissioner to keep an existing policy.
“A company cannot charge a policyholder a higher rate without the policyholder’s permission,” according to the department.