The Insurance Climate Change

Coastal homeowners in the East are losing their policies or watching premiums skyrocket. Carriers say that global warming is to blame.

Published: 21-Jan-2007

Jan. 29, 2007 issue - During the nine years she's lived in her historic sea captain's house on Cape Cod, Mass., Paula Aschettino never filed a claim against her homeowner's insurance policy. But last year she received a letter from her insurer, Hingham Mutual Group, canceling coverage on her nine-room, $600,000 oceanfront home, which has withstood its share of hurricanes since 1840. She and her husband, Michael, scrambled to find other insurance but were repeatedly denied. "They just said we are in a high-risk area," she says. A spokesman for Hingham, which canceled 9,000 Cape Cod policies, says that the company's own coverage—known as "reinsurance"—had doubled in the past year, making it necessary to withdraw from the coastal market.

The Aschettinos finally found other insurance, but only for nearly double their old premium of $1,800, and with a sky-high deductible of $12,000 against wind damage. Incensed, Aschettino circulated a petition among her neighbors demanding price reform from industry regulators. "People feel they are being totally ripped off," she says. "People are afraid to even make claims, because they are afraid they're going to be dropped."

Up and down the Eastern Seaboard, hundreds of thousands of policyholders like the Aschettinos are being dropped by their insurers; many more have had to swallow double-, even triple-digit increases in premiums and deductibles. While discontinued policies and rate hikes are nothing new in hurricane-battered Florida and the Gulf Coast, insurers are now dinging homeowners in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states. Allstate Insurance recently announced it wouldn't take new homeowner policies in New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware—or the five boroughs of New York City. The company also won't renew 30,000 of more than 600,000 policies it carries in and around New York City. A host of other firms are refusing to insure properties along the Atlantic coast from Maine to the Carolinas.

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