Homeowners in south Down are receiving insurance quotes up to a staggering 800% more than last year amid industry claims across the board increases are linked in part to bad weather, including storms.
One homeowner living near Kilkeel received a quote of £2,575 to renew insurance at the end of this month, up from £321 last year.
Brendan Morgan, from Warrenpoint, was quoted a price of £1,589 to renew his combined property and contents insurance, an increase from £335, or 475%.
Insurance industry representatives admit an increase in home cover is linked to bad weather, including multiple storms. The average price paid for property and contents insurance over the last three months of 2023 was just over £350, up 19% year on year.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) does not regularly break down figures regionally so it is unclear whether prices in the north are generally more expensive than elsewhere. Insurance companies may quote much higher renewal prices if they do not want to provide cover in a certain area.
Mr Morgan, a teacher who lives in a house that is not close to Carlingford Lough, any river or any other apparent natural threat and who has not made any recent claim, said he was told by his broker that BT 34 and 35 are “high risk” areas.
But, said Mr Morgan, he is in contact on WhatsApp groups with teachers across other postcodes and they are also reporting a “high risk” designation.
BT 34 and 35 covers much of south Down and south Armagh, including Newry, the scene of flooding that badly affected mostly business premises in November last year.
However, most homes are in areas at little risk of flooding, including high ground across hills and the lower reaches of mountains. The homeowner quoted a price of £2,575 lives in the hills above Kilkeel.
“It is punishing everybody who lives in the area,” said Mr Morgan, who is unable to come up with any real explanation for the huge premium rise.
Mr Morgan does not blame his broker, who tried to source the best price from those set by insurance companies.
The broker managed a lower quote, but it was still £1,526, said Mr Morgan. In the end, the family found an online price of just over £550, still a hefty increase on the previous year.
“Insurance brokers will always do their insurance brokers will always do their best to help people….access affordable cover,” a spokesperson for the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) said.
BIBA suggested there are issues specific to the north, including the number of providers operating in the region.
“BIBA has spoken with the ABI and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to ensure our members can continue to provide competitive home insurance in Northern Ireland and it is a BIBA manifesto commitment,” the brokers’ body said.
“There are a smaller number of home insurance providers in NI than there are in GB (across both the direct and the brokered markets).”
The spokesperson added: “We would suggest that we now have an ideal opportunity with the Northern Ireland Assembly returning, that it is time to review and increase flood defence spending in the flood risk areas of Northern Ireland.”
The insurance industry blames increases in premiums on several factors but including the unpredictability of the weather, including the storms that hit the north and many parts of Britain.
A particular post code may attract a higher premium, with the crime rate taken into account, while the increased costs of building materials is impacting insurance prices, the ABI said.
Average premiums for contents and property insurance were up four per cent in the last quarter of 2023, to £364, according to the ABI tracker which covers over 16 million policies and looks at the price paid rather than the quote. The average increase for the same policy over the year was 19%.
However, the insurance quotes seen by The Irish News that far strip the average prices were received within the last few weeks, the first quarter of 2024.
“The succession of storms that have battered the UK in recent months underlines the importance of home insurance, with insurers supporting thousands of customers whose homes and possessions have been damaged or destroyed,” the ABI’s Louise Clark said.
“Despite rising cost pressures, insurers are totally committed to doing everything they can to continue to offer competitively priced home insurance.”