Will Hurricane Sandy Leave Higher Insurance Rates In Its Path?

People from the DC area to New England woke up this morning and began to check around their homes and property to see if they made it through Hurricane Sandy without being pummeled. But even if you’re not one of the ones wondering how your patio grill ended up in your attic, you might still be paying the price in higher insurance premiums.

“Even if you haven’t been hit, [that] doesn’t mean some of your neighbors haven’t been adversely impacted by the storm and that could impact you,” a spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute tells SmartMoney.

However, though an increase would certainly go along with the upward trend in homeowners policies (the national average rate has jumped 22% in just the last five years), the mild winter for most of the U.S. have thus far resulted in significantly fewer losses to insurers in 2012:

The first half of this year saw a drop in catastrophic losses, which totaled $13.8 billion, compared with $24.4 billion during the same period a year ago, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The industry’s overall net income after taxes skyrocketed during this period to $16.4 billion, compared with $4.8 billion a year prior.

Some independent insurance agents say that, in order to keep premiums from going higher than they already are, they will likely be advising some clients who have recently filed storm damage claims to refrain from doing so in this instance if they can afford to go out of pocket for the repairs. Homeowners who do file multiple claims in the span of a couple years raise the likelihood of being dropped when the policy comes up for renewal.

Beyond rate increases, insurers could also change the way they insure houses in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Considering that Sandy is the second devastating hurricane to come through the area in just over a year, insurers could begin writing policies similar to what you find along the Gulf Coast, where homeowners will see wind damage claims limited or even excluded.

SmartMoney points out that if premiums were to increase, homeowners can offset the cost by increasing their deductible. They will have to pay more when they file a claim, but for those in a low-risk area, it might be a calculated risk worth considering.