RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A public hearing was held Monday to address a proposed insurance rate hike for North Carolina homeowners.
Insurance companies are asking for a 42 percent rate hike statewide and a 99 percent increase for property owners along the North Carolina coast.
The North Carolina Department of Insurance (NCDOI) is asking the public for feedback on the requested rate increase.
People traveled from across the state to voice their concerns.
People say even just a single-digit increase is too much.
Nancy Nester detailed at a public hearing how difficult it is to deal with rising costs on a fixed income.
"This was not our plan in retirement," said Nester. "Everything's escalating to the point where you can't make ends meet on the retirement income alone. I actually drive for Lyft now. I have driven for the last 10 months as extra income."
She moved to Wake Forest from Chicago thinking it would be cheaper, but she came out of retirement after a waterfall of extra expenses.
County and city leaders are also worried about the impact on citizens who are on a fixed income.
Real estate agents also spoke out, saying a rate hike like this could cause major damage to the market.
The insurance rate hike request comes as inflation keeps rising.
The latest data shows a 3.4 percent increase from last year.
The most recent Consumer Price Index shows food prices rose 2.7 percent since 2023.
In Wake County, 53 percent of homeowners are now getting notices that their home value went up and they're waiting to see what that means for property taxes.
Homeowners like Mike Randall could feel the most impact from the proposed rate hike.
He retired in 2017 and his income from last year to now is going up $135 dollars a month, but with the proposed insurance rate hike coupled with his property tax increase, it would cost him $184.
Randall says he will have to cut back to make up the difference.
"I just wonder why the costs of living for insurance companies, property tax, for pharmaceutical companies why their cost of living seems to be going up 30, 40, 50% and our cost of living goes up by 2 or 3%," said Randall.
The Department says the potential rate hike is a balancing act of making sure consumers pay a fair amount and that companies continue doing business here.
"What we do not want to happen is what is happening in some other states, and I'm thinking of Florida comes to mind, where insurance companies are leaving the state and consumers don't have choices," said NCDOI Spokesperson Barry Smith.
Harry Sutton lives in an area of Duplin County where one company announced it's no longer going to offer coverage.
"Me, along with 10,000 other insurers of Nationwide will not be fully covered," said Sutton.
He's stressed what he'll have to pay in premiums.
"I'm devastated right now. I can only imagine what the increase in going to be because as you know, we're going to get an increase," said Sutton.
Residents have until February 2 to weigh in on the proposal by mail. Almost 9,000 comments have been sent by email to NCDOI.2024Homeowners@ncdoi.gov.
The proposed rate hike in Wake and Durham counties is 39%.
Cumberland County is higher at 45%.
If you own a home near the beach, it could be even worse, with a proposed 99.4% percent increase for beach areas in places like Brunswick and New Hanover counties.
Typically, in these cases, the State Department of Insurance can negotiate to get the rates lower which was the case nearly four years ago.
Late Monday, Commissioner Mike Causey issued the following statement to clear up any confusion regarding the recent filing made by insurance companies:
"Many North Carolina citizens have already told me how worried they are about the recent filing made by the N.C. Rate Bureau requesting an increase to homeowners' insurance rates, and they've got good reason to be concerned. An average increase of 42% statewide, and as high as 99% for homes on the coast is a lot. "But first let me be clear - the Commissioner of Insurance in North Carolina does not set insurance rates. The Rate Bureau is an organization created by the N.C. General Assembly. The Insurers in the State that write certain lines of personal insurance, including homeowners and automobile, are the members of the Rate Bureau. It is the Rate Bureau, and not the Commissioner of Insurance, that submits proposed insurance rates to the Department of Insurance for consideration."
"Under our laws, the Commissioner has 50 days from the filing date to review the Rate Bureau's proposal to determine whether it meets certain very technical, mathematical standards. In addition, during this 50-day review period, the public may submit comments on the Rate Bureau's proposal. Consumers can do so by submitting those comments in writing to us via mail or e-mail by February 2."
"I also scheduled a public comment forum that took place today as another way for the public to express their views, and some speakers at that forum said that I should have attended. But, the Rate Bureau has accused the Commissioner of Insurance in the past of prejudging a rate request before a notice of hearing may be issued. So, it is important that I not appear to have prejudged the request before our review is complete. However, I have heard the comments today and the countless comments submitted by our citizens, and I take them all very seriously."
"During this 50-day review period, which expires on February 22, the Department's actuaries, attorneys and consultants are working tirelessly to determine whether the Rate Bureau's proposed increase is "excessive, inadequate or unfairly discriminatory. "If it is, I will call for a hearing on the matter and will fight for our consumers to ensure that any proposed increase is reasonable and actuarially sound. Since I have had the honor to serve as your Commissioner of Insurance, I have strived to ensure that any proposed increases to your insurance rates are fair, and I will continue to do so now and in the future. But, just to be clear, although the Rate Bureau submitted the requested increase, the request has not been approved."
Consumers who have questions about their insurance can visit the website or call the department toll-free at (855) 408-1212.