by: Jeff Smith Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - North Carolina's insurance commissioner is considering increasing the average homeowner insurance rate by 18 percent.
Some insurance agents said the increase is necessary, but many homeowners told Eyewitness News it's a burden they simply can't afford.
Oaklawn Park is a quiet neighborhood in north Charlotte with dozens of retirees.
Residents were stunned when Eyewitness News told them about the possible insurance rate hike.
"That's just crazy. It's unfair," said Valerie Nelson.
Nelson lives with her 90-year-old mother, who has Alzheimer's disease. The family's lived in the home for more than 50 years.
Right now, they pay about $60 a month for homeowner's insurance.
"A lot of these elderly people, they can't go into nursing facilities because their home will be taken away. So why should they increase the homeowners taxes?" Nelson asked. "Yeah it makes me angry."
According to HomeInsurance.com, the average home insurance rate in North Carolina is $654, or $55 a month. An 18 percent increase would mean an extra $10 every month.
Many fixed income families told Eyewitness News they'd have to drive less, and spend less on groceries and medicine.
"That's going to be a really big burden for us," Nelson said.
The request was made by the state Rate Bureau, which represents the insurance industry. One agent told Eyewitness News the rate hike is needed because of severe storms and an increase in auto claims. In North Carolina, auto and home policies are usually linked.
"An18 percent especially in this economy, yeah that is devastating," said homeowner Willie Page. "We're having an increase on everything. Every utility is going up, and of course we all know about the fuel."
The decision is ultimately up to the state insurance commissioner, who is soliciting public input on the potential rate increase. Commissioner Wayne Goodwin could schedule formal public hearings over the next few months.
The last homeowner's insurance rate increase was four years ago. Insurance companies asked for a 20 percent statewide increase, but received 4 percent.