Mobile home insurance to increase

Insurance for mobile homes will rise an average of 3.2 percent statewide, the first increase in 26 years.

The rate hike, which goes into effect Dec. 1, varies widely depending on where the mobile home is located. The new rates cover manufactured homes of all types.

On Friday, the state Department of Insurance announced a settlement with the N.C. Rate Bureau, which represents the state's property and casualty insurers.

In May, the Rate Bureau requested rate increases that averaged 23.9 percent, the first time it sought a rate change in more than a quarter-century.

The settlement was negotiated by Insurance Department and Rate Bureau staffers and approved by Insurance Commissioner Jim Long.

“In the final analysis, we were happy to get a change,” said Ray Evans, general manager of the Rate Bureau. “It is obviously not what we would have liked.”

Brad Lovin, executive director of the N.C. Manufactured Housing Institute, said the timing of the increase is unfortunate given that inflated gas and food prices already are hitting consumers hard. Still, he said, “I guess the bright side is the Commissioner of Insurance didn't grant the full request.”

About 296,000 mobile homes across the state are covered by insurance policies, Evans said. Of those, about 22,500 are based in the 18 coastal counties where rates are going up the most.

North Carolina had 577,323 manufactured homes in 2000, according to the latest Census Bureau data.

The Insurance Department estimates the settlement will save consumers $25 million a year in premiums compared to the rate increase initially sought by the bureau.

“I hope consumers will understand that it was about time for us to raise rates enough to allow these companies to keep offering coverage for mobile homes – but at the same time keeping rates affordable overall,” said Chrissy Pearson, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Department.

Pearson said the significantly higher rates in coastal counties reflect the fact that insuring mobile homes is riskier in coastal areas because of their susceptibility to wind damage.

“We're convinced that we are going to see … more hurricanes and hurricane-type activity along the coast,” Evans said.