Homeowner's Insurance: More Options Than Before Katrina

Aug 12, 2015

Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon
Credit Louisiana Hometown Network

Homeowner’s insurance was a huge issue in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and a huge expense for several years to come. But what’s the situation now, ten years after?

“It is truly a more robust and competitive marketplace than it was the day before Katrina,” states Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon.

His office has a new report out, analyzing the health of the state’s homeowner’s insurance marketplace. It says there are 22 new insurers offering coverage—companies that weren’t here in 2005.

“Our market had been challenged for years, trying to attract companies to Louisiana,” Donelon said of the dearth of available insurers before the 2005 storms.

After Katrina and Rita, property insurers looked for every available way not to pay out on policies, because the amount of the losses was so great.

“Katrina alone was bigger than 9-11, bigger than the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, bigger than Hurricane Andrew—which had always been the benchmark event,” Donelon says, as a way to put the disaster in perspective. “And then, three weeks later, we had Rita—the second biggest group of claims in Louisiana insurance history.”

Many who rebuilt after the storms were stuck with one option for property insurance — the state-run insurer of last resort, Citizens Insurance. By 2008, Citizens was the state’s third largest insurer, with 9.8 percent of the total market. Now, in 2015, Citizens has dropped to number nine, with only 1.8 percent of the state’s total homeowners’ policies.

“The insurance marketplace has taken note of the things that two different governors, two different sets of legislators, and to the degree that we at the department could add our support to those efforts, we have certainly done so,” Donelon explains.

Donelon’s report credits the statewide building code passed in late 2005 -- after Katrina and Rita -- with being the biggest factor in the change. It notes that many property insurers are now offering up to 20-percent discounts on premiums for newly built homes, as well as older houses retrofitted to meet the building code.

“We truly are the model for how to do recovery,” Donelon adds.