Citing heavy losses from storms last year, the state’s fifth-largest insurer, Farm Bureau Insurance, is dropping 3,000 home insurance customers.
Property owners in 17 counties are being sent non-renewal letters, said Susan Merrill, director of marketing.
She said Farm Bureau’s two home-insurance entities, S.C. Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. and Palmetto Casualty Insurance, are non-renewing policies based on property locations, house-construction type and other factors “that contribute the most to the company’s overall exposure.”
Merrill said the company paid more than 9,000 claims worth $36 million last year, the most since Hurricane Hugo in 1989. One storm April 9, 2011, dropped baseball-size hail in Berkeley County, according to the National Weather Service. That storm alone triggered $23 million in claims, Merrill said.
In addition to these losses, income from the company’s investments was low while the cost of buying re-insurance has doubled in the past 10 years, she said. (Re-insurance is insurance for insurance companies and is used to protect a company in a catastrophe.)
“We’re in the business of selling insurance,” she added. “We never take non-renewing a policy lightly and are working as hard as we can to minimize the impact on policyholders and provide them with other coverage options.”
On Wednesday, The Post and Courier revealed that Allstate, the second-largest home insurer, plans to non-renew about 10,000 home insurance policies in South Carolina. Allstate chose customers who didn’t have its auto coverage, had older homes and coverage less than $220,000.
Non-renewal letters can be a shock, and after Allstate began sending letters, some customers said they felt a deep sense of betrayal.
“We just got ours in the mail,” said Fred Holtsclaw of Goose Creek, referring to a non- renewal letter from Allstate. He said his wife had been with Allstate for 40 years — “back when you had to go to Sears to get it. The word is greed. They put ads on TV saying you’re in good hands. I don’t think so.”
The state’s top insurer, State Farm, along with Nationwide and USAA, have no plans to drop homeowners who do not bundle their auto and home coverage, officials with those companies said this week.
Merrill of the Farm Bureau said agents are helping customers find policies with other companies.
Reach Tony Bartelme at 937-5554.
Top 10 home insurers in South Carolina
Insurance company Premiums collected Market shareState Farm Group $312,132,128 26%Allstate Ins. Co. Group $161,086,384 13%Nationwide Group $87,485,211 7%United Services Automobile Assn. Group $81,626,274 7%S.C. Farm Bureau Mutual Group $68,205,658 6%Travelers Group $59,194,496 5%Auto-Owners Ins. Group $58,751,802 5%Farmers Ins. Group $55,701,724 5%Liberty Mutual $48,764,732 4%American Family Home $29,191,216 2%Total premiums collected by all private insurance companies: $1,211,841,261 Source: Post and Courier analysis of S.C. Department of Insurance data 2010