BATON ROUGE – Following a record season last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is considering moving the start of the hurricane season to May 15.
Tropical storm Arthur started the 2020 season forming in mid-May. Before it was over, Louisiana was hit five times. Now, some homeowners are getting hit again by being dropped by their insurance companies.
Louisiana Department of Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon says it’s a direct result of last year’s hurricane season and some of the smaller companies are feeling the heat.
“Yes, it is happening but not to a great extent,” he said.
The primary reason it’s not happening more is because of Louisiana’s consumer protection law that’s been around since 1992. The law says if you’ve been with your homeowner’s insurer for three or more consecutive years then you and that insurer are married for as long as they are doing business in the state. That means rates can’t be changed, can’t not renew a customer, can’t increase your deductible or change your coverage unless they do it to all customers statewide.
Exceptions to the law say that people have to keep their property up to the condition it was when it was insured, and customers have a year from the time of the damage to put their properties back together. It does not apply to commercial properties.
Donelon says over the last 15 years it’s been relatively quiet in terms of hurricanes, and in that time non-renewals were practically non-existent. But things are different since the multiple punches in 2020, and if you’ve been with your provider for less than three years you might be under the microscope.
“It’s hurricane-related, no question,” Donelon said.
For many, the one-year protection expires in one month. Donelon says it’s a good idea to take a look at your policy now before the next hurricane season starts to see what your coverage is and is not.
“Are you protected by the three-year rule by virtue of the company that you have. Number two, know what your named storm or hurricane deductible is, because it’s significant,” he said.
Smaller regional insurance carriers have been stressed by 2020.
“They had enough vertical coverage, but not enough horizontal coverage,” Donelon said. “They anticipated a big one and didn’t anticipate multiple smaller ones hitting. They had to meet the deductible for each different storm under their reinsurance treaty. That’s stressed several of those small regional carries. Some of them have been sold to new owners who see it as an opportunity to do business in our state.”
Since Louisiana was ravaged by hurricanes in 2020, LDI has received more than 1,000 complaints filed against insurers for Hurricanes Laura, Delta, and Zeta. Donelon says in 2020, insurers received about 300,000 claims for hurricane damage and have closed about 80 percent of them. Insurers have either paid or reserved $7.7 billion for those losses, of which $6.6 billion was for Laura.
If you’re in a disagreement with your insurance company, call LDI at 800-259-5300 or fill out the complaint form online.