As we step into 2024, the property insurance market in Utah is encountering significant challenges and trends that are reshaping the industry. Business owners and homeowners are facing a complex landscape, dealing with issues ranging from an increased threat of wildfires to a surge in nuclear verdicts in litigation.
Tackling the Challenge of Wildfires and Insurability
Wildfires have emerged as a pressing concern for insurers in Utah, creating pressure on insurance providers. Increasing frequency and severity, coupled with rising firefighting costs, are the main reasons for concern. The fallout from major fires in California has triggered an insurance crisis, influencing other western states, including Utah. Consequently, insurance carriers are reevaluating their underwriting practices, leading to higher premiums and stricter coverage terms.
Insurance companies utilize wildfire risk scoring systems to assess danger based on things like past fire incidents, fuel loads, and local fire department response capabilities. These systems utilize proprietary algorithms to determine premiums or declinations for coverage.
When considering a new location or building in mountainous or rural areas, plan months in advance. Wildfire rating systems and protection classifications on the cost of insurance for these properties may ultimately deter you from the purchase.
The Influence of Rising Property Values and Inflation
Utah has also seen a substantial increase in property values in recent years. As property values soar, insurance carriers face heightened potential payouts in the event of a loss, resulting in increased premiums for higher-value homes and commercial properties.
While inflation has eased since its peak in 2021, high building material costs and wage growth in the construction industry have contributed to increased claims expenses. This has raised concerns about underinsurance, as outdated property valuations can lead to reduced claim payouts and potential coinsurance penalties.
To counter these challenges, property owners need to regularly reassess their property values for adequate coverage. Accurate valuations are essential based on current construction and rebuilding costs, property appraisals, adjusted fixed-asset records, and benchmarking tools. Working closely with insurance agents and underwriters can ensure that coverage aligns with true property values.
Reinsurance Capacity Concerns
Reinsurance provides insurers with financial protection against catastrophic events. However, concerns about reinsurance capacity have impacted the availability and affordability of coverage. Many reinsurers have limited the total insurable value they are willing to accept per account, posing challenges for larger properties.
Property owners should anticipate more stringent property inspections and insurance requirements. Owners should implement measures to mitigate risk such as annual safety inspections for older buildings which focus on electrical systems, plumbing, HVAC, and roofing.
The Rise of Nuclear Verdicts and Increased Litigation
The property insurance industry is witnessing a worrying increase in nuclear verdicts, which are jury awards exceeding $10 million. They have a detrimental impact on both insurers and consumers. The surge means insurers should be prepared for the potential impact on their bottom line.
Property owners need to work closely with insurance agents and legal counsel to develop risk management strategies. This may involve proactive measures such as maintaining properties in optimal condition and implementing disaster mitigation and response plans to potentially reduce the likelihood of litigation and any financial consequences.
The Impact on the Hospitality Sector
Hotels and motels bear the brunt of increased wildfire risk, rising property values, and reinsurance capacity concerns in the hospitality sector, leading to exponential rate increases, coverage reductions, and policy cancellations.
Hospitality businesses should proactively manage their insurance risks with risk assessments, property valuations, and an exploration of alternative risk management solutions. Insurance professionals specializing in the hospitality sector can help with that.
By understanding the essentials of commercial property insurance, assessing your business’s needs, and selecting the right policy, you can protect your assets and ensure your business runs smoothly. Remember to review your policy now often and make adjustments. We recommend working closely with your insurance agent to monitor market changes and mitigate risk even further.