North Carolina homeowners insured under the beach plan will get a break on rate increases. Most homeowners along the coast get their windstorm and hail insurance through the North Carolina Beach Plan. On Monday a judge ruled that one planned rate increase will be frozen, but another increase could be just around the corner. In January the North Carolina Insurance Commission rezoned it's insurance territories. Under the new zoning, beach town homeowners pay different insurance rates from those on the other side of the Intracoastal Waterway. Last year beach town homeowners paid nearly double the amount of costal homeowners for insurance coverage. The North Carolina Insurance Commission scheduled a 10 percent increase to take effect February first. That would have meant $200-$300 on insurance premiums for every $400,000 of coverage. But Monday a judge ruled former insurance commissioner Jim Long didn't follow proper procedures before approving the increase. Insurance agent Jim Moore said the commission needs to restructure the beach plan. “I think the people on the coast need to lobby to have their premium dollars put into an escrow account and returned down the road if the money is not needed for storms. Second, I think we have painted the insurance companies into a box, we need to relieve them of the potential assessments that could bankrupt them.” But folks living along the coast aren't out of the woods yet. Local homeowners could still be paying higher premiums beginning in May; 40% increase for costal homeowners and 20% percent increase for beach homeowners. Insurance agencies said the increase is necessary to prevent them from going bankrupt in the event of a big hurricane. A spokesperson for the North Carolina Insurance Commission said, "We don't want to have increases if they're not warranted, but the industry provided compelling data." Moore believes that data is just guesswork. “I just don't think you can predict the cost of a category 4 or 5 storm in North Carolina, when we've never had one.” If the NC Insurance Commission decides to go after the February increase, new commissioner Wayne Goodwin will have to repeat the process before it can take effect. That planned May increase could also face a freeze if Senator Boseman has any say. The senator sponsored a bill that would delay all insurance increases until July 2010.
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