State senators adopted a budget bill this week that bears little resemblance to the version approved by the House last month.
There are major differences between the House and Senate versions in areas important to North Carolina homeowners:
Speaker of the House Tim Moore told reporters that the House won’t agree to the Senate’s changes. A small group of legislators from the House and Senate – called a conference committee – will be appointed to negotiate a compromise version of the budget that can pass both chambers.
The North Carolina Homeowners Alliance is committed to protecting tax benefits for homeowners and supporting policies that strengthen our economy.
The Property Insurance Fairness Act, which recently passed the North Carolina House, will force insurance companies to provide more information to consumers about rate increases. The legislation now moves to the Senate’s Committee on Insurance.
Many homeowners have received high-pressure “consent to rate” letters from their insurers, demanding they pay rates above the regulated maximum. The Property Insurance Fairness Act will require insurance companies to disclose the lower regulated rate. This information will help homeowners negotiate with their existing insurer or shop for better deals in the insurance market.
Insurers have been using the “consent to rate” legal loophole to force consumers to pay more than the legally regulated homeowner insurance rate. Last year, 40 percent of homeowners insurance policies charged more than the regulated maximum rate. The Property Insurance Fairness Act will help consumers make more informed choices about their insurance.
This week, the Property Insurance Fairness Act passed the North Carolina House Insurance Committee, taking its first major step at the General Assembly. There is still a long way to go, but clearing this committee was an important early victory.
The NC Homeowners Alliance is thanking our legislators for their focus on the Property Insurance Fairness Act, which reforms the insurance rate making process and eliminates insurance companies' practice of sending Consent to Rate letters to consumers. Look for the following 30-second television ad on Capital Tonight and NC Spin.
David Ranii of Raleigh’s News and Observer wrote about efforts to reform the homeowners insurance ratemaking process. This is an important issue for the Alliance – homeowners need to know how insurance companies use high pressure tactics to charge consumers higher premiums.
A couple of important points for consumers:
A legal loophole for insurance companies – We knew that more and more consumers were getting hit with “consent to rate” letters that demand premiums above the regulated maximum. Now we’re seeing the full extent of this insurance company tactic: “Last year 40 percent of homeowners policies statewide charged higher than the maximum rates thanks to consent to rate, up from 23 percent in 2010.”
It’s about balance – The Homeowners Alliance supports a competitive insurance market that balances the needs of consumers with fair assessments of risk. Right now, that balance tips in favor of insurance companies, and homeowners deserve the chance to take a larger part in the conversation surrounding insurance ratemaking reform.
Want to take part in advocating for the rights of homeowners? Spread the word about our NC Homeowners Petition to your friends and family.
At a March 25 constituent forum in Clayton hosted by the Homeowners Alliance, Senator Brent Jackson (R-Sampson) stressed the need to make property insurance rates more fair and transparent.
Senator Jackson is a co-sponsor of the Property Insurance Fairness Act. His bi-partisan legislation increases the transparency of insurance rate setting. The legislation also better protects our state against the consequences of natural disasters.
On the same day as the forum, Senator Jackson also co-sponsored another bill that’s good for consumers. The new legislation would fully close a legal loophole that forces homeowners to pay higher premiums or risk cancellation of their policy. Insurance companies have been using this loophole to send “consent to rate” letters that demand higher premiums from consumers.
On another major issue, the Homeowners Alliance plans to keep educating the Senator about what’s important to homeowners. Senator Jackson said the Senate is still “taking a look at” elimination of the mortgage interest deduction. Protection of the deduction remains a top priority for the Alliance.
If you want to join Senator Jackson in helping insurance consumers, or you want to make sure your voice is heard on the mortgage interest deduction, sign our homeowners petition.
At a March 26 constituent forum hosted by the North Carolina Homeowners Alliance, Representative Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) let the audience know he supports the mortgage interest tax deduction.
This is a great development for homeowners. Rep. Saine is co-chairman of the House Finance Committee, so all tax legislation has to pass through his committee. There are still some legislators who want to eliminate the mortgage interest deduction, so we need strong champions like Rep. Saine.
Rep. Saine took questions from the audience for almost an hour at the forum in Lincolnton. He heard from homeowners about the issues that matter most to them, including taxes, insurance and education.
Rep. Saine also strongly agreed on another Homeowners Alliance priority, the restoration of the Historic Preservation Tax Credit. This credit, which has benefited many communities across the state, still faces an uphill battle after it was repealed in 2014. We are happy to know that a key House member supports the credit.
We will keep you updated on all these issues as the legislature continues its work. If you want to support Rep. Saine, please sign our homeowners petition.
Not long ago, we told you about major legislation that would help protect property insurance consumers and bring more transparency to the ratemaking process.
Now, Senator Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) and several other senators have filed legislation that would fully close a legal loophole that forces homeowners to pay higher premiums or risk cancellation of their policy.
Insurance companies have been using this loophole to send “consent to rate” letters that demand higher premiums from consumers. The North Carolina Homeowners Alliance has previously told consumers about this loophole and provided information on what to do when they get a letter.
The current law lets insurers bypass Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin’s authority to deny a rate increase. In 2013, premiums rose by an average of 7 percent. In 2014, insurers requested an average increase of 25 percent, which the Commissioner denied.
You can tell legislators that you support insurance reform by signing our petition.
The recently introduced Property Insurance Fairness Act at the North Carolina General Assembly includes major consumer protections for homeowners. The legislation, co-sponsored by a bi-partisan group of legislators, increases the transparency of insurance rate setting. The legislation also better protects our state against the consequences of natural disasters. The North Carolina Homeowners Alliance strongly supports the bill.
The Property Insurance Fairness Act has several provisions that are great for consumers:
- Direct consumer protection – This reform legislation will make it harder for insurance companies to pressure consumers into rates that are above the regulated maximum.
- Transparency in rates – For years, insurance companies have held the upper hand on rate setting. The Property Insurance Fairness Act will expand insurance companies’ disclosure requirements. The bill will also give the Insurance Commissioner the power to lower rates, not just hold them steady or increase them.
- Disaster preparedness – Catastrophic modeling is an important factor in setting insurance rates. This reform would clarify how this modeling is used in rate setting. In addition, this legislation would expand the state’s capability to respond to a catastrophic insurance loss.
This important bill is not the only positive step for consumers. House Bill 151, introduced earlier in the session, would also increase transparency.
Even one of these reforms would be great for consumers. The Homeowners Alliance applauds the bill sponsors for taking the bold step of protecting consumers through major reform. You can join the effort, and we will keep you up to date on these reforms.
Raleigh – Flanked by legislators and Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, North Carolina Association of Realtors® President Tony Smith asked General Assembly members to support homeowners insurance reform bills filed today in the House and Senate. Senators Bill Cook (Washington), Harry Brown (Jacksonville) and Fletcher Hartsell (Concord) sponsored SB 208, and Representatives Chris Millis (Hampstead), David Lewis (Dunn) and Mike Hager (Rutherfordton) sponsored HB 182.
“NCAR has worked for years toward a goal of keeping homeowners insurance available and affordable for working families,” said Smith. “These bills already enjoy statewide support. Now it’s time for the state to pass meaningful insurance reform.”
Raleigh-area homeowner Emily King, speaking on behalf of the North Carolina Homeowners Alliance, reinforced Smith’s comments.
“As a homeowner, my family feels the direct impact of any increase in our homeowner’s insurance,” said King. “This bill will allow for more fair and equitable insurance rates to help North Carolina families in a still recovering economy.”
The bills alter how insurers calculate rates and give the Insurance Commissioner the flexibility to lower rates. Sen. Cook explained that the bills provide insurers with a “more efficient mechanism for responding to catastrophic losses.” Smith said that consumers need these measures to guarantee accountability and transparency.
“NC REALTORS® and Homeowners Alliance grassroots volunteers are on standby,” said Smith. “The homeowners of this state are looking to our legislators for leadership on this issue. I ask that legislators follow the example of the bill sponsors and pass this needed reform.”
Policies that encourage homeownership, keep insurance rates at affordable levels, and boost property values are vital for millions of working families. That’s why I support the North Carolina Homeowners Alliance.
It’s common sense. Fair insurance rates, tax policies that encourage homeownership, and community investments that preserve our state’s history are important to the property owners of North Carolina. I strongly urge my legislators to:
- Protect the mortgage interest tax deduction, one of the biggest and most important boosts to working families across the state. I’m counting on legislators to oppose any effort to repeal or reduce this vital deduction that our families depend on.
- Support greater consumer protection for homeowners in the insurance ratemaking process. The process by which our rates are set should be fair and transparent. Insurance companies shouldn't be allowed to circumvent the legal process and force property owners to pay higher premiums through Consent to Rate letters.
- Restore the Historic Preservation Tax Credit. This credit breathes new economic life into distressed areas, raises property values, and preserves our local communities’ heritage while bringing jobs and investment to our state.
These issues are vital to homeowners and to our communities. That's why I am urging legislators to support North Carolina Homeowners Alliance in 2015.