N.Y. Agents’ Survey Sees Lingering Hard Market

December 9, 2004

Independent agents and brokers in New York see premium rates continuing to increase and coverage choices failing to improve for most lines of property casualty insurance in the state despite industry and press reports to the contrary.

The findings are derived from the initial quarterly survey on New York insurance market conditions recently conducted by the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of New York Inc. The 156 member agents and brokers of the statewide trade group participating in the unscientific, online survey contend most rates are continuing to climb.

A recent industry study found property casualty rates rising nationally by only two percent in October. However, IIABNY’s survey respondents see rates rising much higher in New York.

Eighty-nine percent in the IIABNY survey said homeowners rates are increasing, and 40 percent said they’re increasing significantly. Auto insurance rates are also increasing, according to the respondents.

Rates for commercial insurance differ only slightly in comparison: 81 percent said rates are rising, 4 percent said they’re decreasing slightly.

New York agents in the survey said that insurance companies are also making it more difficult for them to write business by imposing more restrictions on new business. Fifty-six percent of respondents observe more restrictions on commercial lines, 41 percent say they see restrictions on personal auto, and 40 percent see them on homeowners insurance.

The situation with difficult-to-place lines of coverage does not appear to be improving, either. Liability coverage for contractors continues to be a problem for agents and brokers, according to this survey. Forty percent of respondents said that it became more difficult to place coverage for contractors in the last three months, and 27 percent said that it was much more difficult. A bare majority (52 percent) said that the workers compensation insurance market has stabilized, while 43 percent said that it has become more difficult to place.

One bright note is that insurance companies operating in New York do not appear to be exiting classes of business or lines of coverage in large numbers. When asked whether personal auto companies are exiting specific classes, 80 percent of respondents said no. Seventy-three percent answered similarly regarding homeowners insurance, but only 41 percent of the respondents said carriers were not exiting commercial lines, while 54 percent said yes.

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