Homeowners could see lower premiums

pseligson@newsobserver.comJanuary 20, 2014 

The cost of homeowners’ insurance could soon fall for some Johnston County residents.

County Commissioners recently OK’d new boundaries for the county’s fire insurance districts. The changes brought more people within 5 miles of a fire station, and that proximity can yield lower premiums for homeowners’ insurance.

In some cases, to get to 5 miles, Johnston made fire-protection agreements with fire departments in neighboring counties, said Paul Whitehurst, the county’s fire marshal. Johnston borders six counties – Harnett, Nash, Sampson, Wake, Wayne and Wilson.

In other cases, the county tweaked the district lines to assign homes to the fire station nearest them. That means, for example, that homes within a sprawling subdivision could be assigned to different fire departments.

“In order for an insurance company to give the lower insurance premium, they’re looking at it to be within five miles of that fire station,” Whitehurst said.

Homes within 5 five miles of a fire station enjoy the lowest insurance premiums. The premiums rise for properties within 5 to 6 miles of a fire station, and they’re highest for homes that are more than 6 miles away. Insurers measure the distance by road, not as the crow flies.

Under the former district lines, 88 percent of Johnston County was within five miles of a fire station; now, 93 percent of the county is.

Before the change, 6 percent of the county was within 5 to 6 miles of a fire station; it’s now 3 percent. Another 6 percent of the county was more than six miles away from a fire station; that number is now 4 percent.

So how can homeowners find out if and when their premiums will go down?

Whitehurst said homeonwers should call their insurance carrier to find out. The state has all the new maps, but but some insurance carriers might not have updated their maps yet, so homeowners could see a lag time. Whitehurst expects all insurance carriers to have the updated maps by April, though that date isn’t set in stone.

People who moved into the 5-to-6-mile range will see some savings, but people who moved into the 5-mile range could see savings of hundreds of dollars a year, Whitehurst said. “They’re the ones who are going to see the savings whenever their insurance comes up for renewal,” he said.

Tom Medlin, who owns an All State agency on North Bright Leaf Boulevard in Smithfield, said fire is a big factor for insurance companies. “The most frequent peril is fire, so it depends on how fast the fire trucks and all that can get to the individual once the fire is reported,” he said. “If it’s less than five miles, they can get there and possibly save more of the structure. ... Once it gets over five miles, generally, when they get there, it’s not much left.” That’s why the rates are higher, he said.

Homes outside the 5-mile-radius can see premiums that are 13 to 15 percent higher, Medlin said.

Medlin said it’s wonderful that the county has updated the fire insurance district lines. “That’s a benefit to everybody,” he said.

Seligson: 919-836-5768

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