North Carolina's top insurance regulator has denied an industry request to raise homeowners' insurance premiums by an average of 42% — and to almost double them in coastal counties — saying Tuesday that “almost nobody” who weighed in agreed with the proposed increase.
Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey also said he set a hearing for October to evaluate the request and determine what is reasonable.
“I just want to announce today that I said no,” Causey said at the meeting of the Council of State, composed of 10 statewide elected executive branch positions.
Causey, who is in his second term and faces two challengers in the March 5 Republican primary, said he and the department received more than 25,000 emails, phone calls and letters about the proposal during the public comment period that ended Friday, and “almost nobody was in favor of it.”
“People said that they were struggling with the higher cost of groceries and fuel, taxes have gone up in their localities,” Causey told reporters after the meeting. “So I heard loud and clear what the public said.”
The North Carolina Rate Bureau, a state-created entity representing insurance companies, has attributed the requested increase to rising costs of building materials and more intense storms due to climate change while people continue to build in vulnerable areas along the coast.
The average increases sought by the bureau range from just over 4% in parts of the mountains to 99% in the beach areas within Brunswick, Carteret, New Hanover, Onslow and Pender counties. Proposed increases in the state's largest cities in the Piedmont were roughly 40%.
Causey said he also empathizes with the homeowners’ insurance industry. He said one insurance agent told him that $112 in claims were being issued for every $100 in premiums taken in. But he said the industry must do more to tighten its belt and address insurance fraud.
“I’m willing to listen if they want to come back with some numbers that are more reasonable to the people, because the majority of people can’t stand this,” Causey said.
Causey said he'll preside over an evidentiary hearing starting Oct. 7, and if he finds the proposed rates excessive, he can then issue an order that sets new rates. That order could be appealed, and a pre-hearing settlement is possible. During the last round on homeowners’ policies, the bureau sought an overall average increase of 24.5% before a November 2021 settlement resulted in a 7.9% average increase.