Home Insurance Rates Likely to Rise in Storm-Prone Areas

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Home Insurance Rates Likely to Rise in Storm-Prone Areas

Homeowners in the South and Midwest may have to pay more for coverage as a result of this year's wild weather.

It’s been a wicked year for weather disasters. Will this year’s unusually high number of storms, floods and tornadoes cause homeowners insurance rates to rise?

It depends on where you live. Homeowners insurance rates rose by about 5% last year, on average, and are likely to rise at the same rate this year in most areas that haven’t been affected by the disasters. Residents of areas where there have been a lot of claims are likely to see their rates rise even more.

Although the destruction by tornadoes has received the most attention recently, 2011 marks the fourth year in a row that insurers have paid out substantial claims for damage from thunderstorms, hail, lightning and high winds, says Robert Hartwig, president and economist with the Insurance Information Institute. Many of these claims tend to be in the Midwest, a part of the country that normally has lower-than-average homeowners insurance rates, particularly when compared with hurricane-prone coastal areas. Homeowners in parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee that have been affected by storm damage are likely to see the largest increases when their policies come up for renewal in the next two years (insurers need to develop new rates and get them approved by regulators before passing them on to policyholders). Despite record-breaking floods this year, those disasters will not affect homeowners insurance rates because flood damage is not covered by homeowners insurance -- instead, you must buy separate coverage from the National Flood Insurance Program (run by the federal government) to cover flooding. For more information about flood insurance, see Protect Your Home and Finances Against Floods.

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Insurers have paid out about $17 billion in catastrophe claims so far in 2011, including $15 billion in the second quarter alone. “It’s probably the worst second quarter in history,” says Hartwig. And that’s before the start of hurricane season, which could bring more claims over the next few months -- and could eventually lead to more rate increases for the coastal areas that get hit by the storms.

See How to Prepare for an Emergency and How to Prepare for a Hurricane for steps to help protect your home and your finances from storms. Also see The Basics of Buying Home Insurance for help deciding on the right coverage.

Got a question? Ask Kim at askkim@kiplinger.com.