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Insurance Premiums Could Soon Shoot Higher [AUDIO]

We keep hearing about property taxes increasing in parts of Jersey hard-hit by Superstorm Sandy, but now there’s increasing chatter about homeowner insurance premiums going up – all over the Garden State.

Homes in Mantoloking damaged from Sandy
Homes in Mantoloking damaged from Sandy (Andy Chase, Townsquare Media NJ)

Eric Stenson, a spokesman for the New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company, says in the wake of Sandy, “We’re projecting that our covered losses could exceed 300 million dollars – and that would be 4 times what we paid as a result of Tropical storm Irene…it’s unprecedented for us, that’s for sure – previously Irene was the largest claims event in our company’s almost one hundred year history.”

He adds NJM “is an exceptionally well-capitalized company – we’re very well prepared to address these obligations, but and as far as any impact it might have on rates later on, that’s going to require analysis, it’s premature to really be able to speculate as to what that impact might be.”

An immense challenge for insurance companies

Stenson points out 80 percent of the 52,000 claims that are being processed are homeowners, “meaning largely wind impact- things like tree limbs and branches being blown into buildings, that sort of thing….it’s been an immense challenge, but it’s also been an amazing opportunity to address the needs of our policy holders…we view it as we’re really helping them rebuild their lives and the infrastructure of New Jersey.”

Sheila Breeding, a spokesperson for Allstate New Jersey Insurance Company tells a similar story.

“Irene had been the largest storm that we had in New Jersey” she says, “but then Sandy came along and has delivered us about 41 thousand claims – it’s about 3 ½ times bigger than Irene…we’ve paid out about a hundred million dollars to date, and we estimated that when we complete everything, it’ll be about 250 million dollars for Allstate New Jersey.”

She says, “It is very important that we are financially strong and well prepared for these natural disasters, so what we do is we capitalize our companies to make sure that we’re prepared…the cost of Sandy will go into how we look at New Jersey, and the risk that’s right here for the people living here in the state.”

So what does that mean for future rates?

“Our goal is to match the price to risk as accurately as we can,” says Breeding, “although it’s too soon to determine immediately what that impact might be…we play a very, very important role in rebuilding New Jersey, that money we are spending on claims is going into the New Jersey economy…claim settlements are the earliest rebuilding funds that flow into these communities devastated by the storm.”

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