Canadian Underwriter

Property insurance rates rise due to hurricane losses

January 30, 2006   by Canadian Underwriter

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A two-year trend of steadily falling property insurance premiums is changing as evidenced by the sharp increase of property insurance rates in the fourth quarter of 2005, according to the new RIMS Benchmark Survey.
Through the industry-wide survey of current policy renewal prices, corporate risk managers report that some commercial insurance buyers saw property premiums increase by as much as 33%, with a median increase of 8% in the Q4.
“Record-shattering insurer losses as a result of the destruction caused by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma” which Advisen estimates cost the insurance industry nearly $58 billion drove the premium increases, according to the RIMS survey.
The Q4 survey results validate the feedback the RIMS Benchmark Survey received in the Q3, where risk managers reported that property insurance programs were beginning to experience as much as a 20% rate increase due to the widespread damage caused by these storms.
The new RIMS survey indicates that there is no evidence in the Q4 numbers for casualty lines that predictions of higher premiums in other lines of insurance due to the hurricane losses have been realized. The survey reports that Directors and Officers liability renewals were flat and General Liability renewals were down 3%.
“The insurance market shrugged off the record hurricane losses of 2004, but the combined impact of Katrina, Rita and Wilma was clearly more than the market was ready to absorb in 2005,” Karen Beier, member, RIMS board of directors, membership and chapter services portfolio, says. “So far it seems only property insurance has been affected, but it remains to be seen if the rise in property rates will be the catalyst for an overall upturn in prices and a harder market.”
“As anticipated, the three major hurricanes in 2005 stopped the soft property insurance market in its tracks, but only time will tell if the aftermath of these storms will impact other lines of insurance,” David Bradford, editor-in-chief at Advisen, says. “Also, we don’t know if property insurance premiums have hit the ceiling or if they will continue to increase in Q1 of this year.”
“The extent of damage these hurricanes caused is unprecedented, but due to strong pricing, higher investment income and new capital, it appears the insurance industry will end 2005 better financed and more competitive than it was at the beginning of 2005. Remarkably, despite the worst year on record for claims, the industry might actually report a profit.”
Produced by Advisen, Ltd., the RIMS Benchmark Survey collects and analyzes data that is provided by approximately 42,000 corporate insurance programs.

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