Home insurance premiums increase after Hurricane Maria's destruction
Insurance agents here say the cost of insurance has increased drastically after hurricane Maria and during the 2020 hurricane period home owners must ensure that their houses are fully insured.
In September 2017, Hurricane Maria damaged the roofs of as much as 98% of the island's buildings, half of the houses had their frames destroyed.
After the hurricane, New India Assurance Company of A.C. Shillingford &Co as well as other insurance companies paid millions to home owners. And as a consequence the cost of home insurance has increased.
"Insurance premiums did go up after Hurricane Maria," said Julius Timothy, the managing director. "For instance we had home owners insurance for five dollars per thousand before the hurricane now its eight dollars per one thousand. Commercial rate also went up from the minimum which was 7.50 per thousand and it's now 10.50".
Timothy said that in spite of the damage that Hurricane Maria inflicted on Dominica's housing sector many home owners are under-insuring.
"The fact it that some of them just can't afford to pay the maximum premium that is required. One or two are still under insuring but those who have a bank mortgage must be properly insured," he said. "What I found is that retired public officers who no longer have mortgages stopped paying house insurance and they have suffered a major blow and I think government needs to assist them. In the Goodwill area is a typical example."
Timothy said New India Assurance paid out EC$70 million after Hurricane Maria. There were about EC$750 million in claims.
"We have honored mostly all our claims and I am happy for that because that is very important to ensure people get their monies," he said.
Timothy advised people who are searching for a suitable insurance company to look closely at that insurance's track record.
"Some of the insurance companies gave people a bad deal; you need a reputable insurance company," Timothy said. "Some of them have paid but they have also folded after. The registrar of insurance needs to ensure that the insurance companies have proper reinsurance to avoid what transpired after hurricane Maria."
Heather Reid, the general manager of NAGICO Insurance in Dominica also confirms that after hurricane Maria insurance premiums have increased. These increases are based on construction levels, location and use of the building. She said the cost had skyrocketed to about 10 to $1, 000 but it has now decreased to 7-9 to $1,000.
"Presently because of what happened to people during the passage of Hurricane Maria, people are making sure that their houses are insured and premiums are paid and that they are not under insured," she said. "I can say that 85% or more are taking the necessary action needed. We send out letters to people asking them to do the necessary checks and balances but some still don't care and don't take heed.
"To date we have paid over US$750 billion (across the region) since we have branches in all parts of the globe. After Hurricane Maria we have less than 10 still outstanding with two presently under litigation."
She continued, "Our advice to people during the hurricane season is to read the documents signed, know what you are covered for. If you sign you must know and ensure that you are adequately covered, check your documents properly. The contents in your house are also important and if you wish to have them insured you have to pay additional fees for that. So again read and ask questions".